THE VOID (2016) Exclusive Blu-ray
Directors: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Screen Media

The Canadian hit THE VOID revels in practical effects and Fulci-isms (and not much else) on Screen Media's exclusive Blu-ray.

An uneventful night in small town Marsh County takes a turn when bleeding and disoriented junkie James (Evan Stern) stumbles into the road in front of Officer Daniel Carter's (Aaron Poole, THE CONSPIRACY) patrol car. Daniel rushes the injured man nearest hospital which is in the process of closing after a fire, finding the only people on duty to be avuncular Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD), head nurse Beverly (Stephanie Belding, EXISTENZ), nurse trainee Kim (Ellen Wong, SILENT NIGHT), and his ex-wife Alison (Kathleen Munroe, DRUMMER BOY) along with pregnant Maggie (Grace Munro) and her grandfather Ben (James Millington, MAXIMUM RISK). While Powell and Alison are examining sedated James, Daniel walks in on Beverly carving up a patient after having ripped off her own face. Forced to shoot her in self-defense, Daniel has a seizure and passes out. When he wakes up, he finds trooper Mitchell (Art Hindle, THE BROOD) has arrived from the scene of a massacre at a pill house in the vicinity. Before those gathered in the hospital can figure out what is going on, Beverly's corpse undergoes a monstrous transformation and the group is held at gunpoint by a father (Daniel Fathers, PONTYPOOL) and son (Mik Byskov, THE 100) who have come after James. While the gun-toting pair has it in mind to kill everyone and burn down the hospital to make sure the monstrosities do not multiply, both groups find themselves trapped inside as dagger-wielding hooded cultists wait silently outside preventing any of them from leaving.

An ambitious practical effects-heavy film partially crowd-funded through Indiegogo, THE VOID has been hyped as a Fulci-esque Lovecraftian throwback; and it is, in a way, but more like Lovecraft by way of John Carpenter's apocalyptic trilogy of THE THING, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS by way of Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND – with perhaps a nod to HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II not so much in the gooey effects as the visualization of the inhabitant of The Void as a dark, floating, geometric mass – that may leave a lot of viewers in on the homages thinking: that's it? Like their FATHER'S DAY co-director Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy's subsequent Italian horror/giallo extended homage THE EDITOR, art director/graphic designer Jeremy Gillespie and effects make-up artist Steven Kostanski (both of whom are working on the feature version of Stephen King's IT) structures its underplotted script around a series of nods (as well as a number of effects set-pieces). Good performances are underserved by a script that pays lip service to characterization and motivation; that Daniel and Alison have lost a child has no emotional resonance even at the climax, and the loss of a child also seems a poor sole motivation for the villain's actions. While Fulci's metaphysical gorefests have worked with less (in script and resources), one expects admiring filmmakers to make more than just a greatest hits reel. One must still admire what the filmmakers were able to achieve on their budget, partially due to the design prep work of Kostanski and Gillespie (who also worked on graphic design, conceptual art, visual effects, and contributed to the score) and to the enthusiasm they fostered for their design teams, crew, and the crowdfunding investors.

While Screen Media's DVD edition has disappointed by being a flawed pressing with stuttering and picture breakup in the first twenty minutes, their exclusive looks great in close-ups and well-lit shots, but the film is very dependent on the sickly hues of fluorescent lit hospital interiors, blue gel lighting, saturated reds of flares, and the usual horror movie backlighting of an otherwise cold color palette. The creature effects hold up well in high definition. Audio tracks include a great DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that makes good use of the surrounds and particularly the subwoofer, as well as a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.

Extras start off with an audio commentary by directors Gillespie and Kostanski that is focused on production factoids and anecdotes over story, noting the loss of locations due to production stoppages (one location did not want to them to come back after lending their location to another production that treated them badly), shooting in the winter (the film was intended to be set in summer but the schedule was pushed back), and the many minute instances in which they had to digitally paint out elements from the frames (which is not a matter of pride for them unlike some other effects artists turned filmmakers). A second audio commentary featuring Kostanski along with effects artists Michael Walsh (THE WITCH) and Nicola Bendry (ANTIVIRAL) – who first worked together on the effects crew of RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION – is along similar lines with more detail about the effects, production anecdotes, and their sometimes humorous takes on the production and story aspects.

The real conceptual issues with the film's story are apparent in "Nightmare Logic: The Making of THE VOID" (25:41) in which Gillespie and Kostanski reveal that they wanted to make a serious horror movie after FATHER'S DAY but only had vague concepts, likening their initial designs and story ideas to "automatic writing" and coming up with the title THE VOID before the story (they also namecheck SILENT HILL as more of an influence than Carpenter or Fulci). They discuss the "proof of concept" trailer they created, with Kostanski making use of surplus materials during his work on other films to create some effects for it. Far more impressive is hearing about the division of responsibilities between Kostanski (creature designs), Gillespie (location scouting and design concepts with production designer Henry Fong), and producer Casey Walker (including casting and second unit). The featurette takes us through pre-production and the multiple hiatuses as they lost investors and locations, the winter cold, weather issues, power problems in the derelict school used for the production offices and studio space (the temple dedicated to The Void was erected in the smaller of the school's gyms), and working with practical effects that did not lend themselves to multiple takes. Also included are a teaser trailer (1:03) and theatrical trailer (1:42), as well as start-up trailers for three non-exclusive Screen Media titles only on DVD. A Blu-ray edition is also available in the UK and, although it only features the directors' commentary track, it does include the proof of concept trailer only excerpted here in the behind the scenes featurette. (Eric Cotenas)