The horror scene is currently littered with filmmakers who grew up with classic 80s horror movies. I’m old enough to remember the era (super old) and those films got about as much respect from your more discerning audience as the present horror influx does, i.e. basically none; but it’s still acceptably cool to like old horror movies – they’ve had the time to earn it.
In 15 or 20 years, there’ll no doubt be a bunch of aging horror fans sitting around in the post-nuclear wasteland, firing up their e-cigs filled with pure oxygen and fondly reminiscing about an age where Don’t Breathe, V/H/S 2 or Lights Out delighted them on a random evening after flicking through the spoils of VOD. “Not like now, where you have to download the horrors directly into your frontal lobe and decide the fate of the teens yourself,” they’ll opine. Probably.
But for now, we’re still very much romanticising the 80s, and here are the directing team of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski – who have forged careers mainly behind the scenes with make-up effects, art direction and prosthetics in films like Suicide Squad, Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim – to give you pretty much exactly what you might be after with their new film The Void.
Tired of CGI ghosts and jump scares? Pining for a time when John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon were churning out midnight classics? Longing for a return to the practical effects of yore? Want a little more actual body in your body horror? The Void comes gift-wrapped for you.
The film’s plot is simple enough, with an Assault On Precinct 13-esque set-up. A fairly small gaggle of unfortunate souls find themselves trapped in a run-down hospital one evening, as a large cult of robe-wearing knife-wielders bear down on them from the outside and a plethora of endlessly-transforming gooey monsters try to consume them from the inside.
Among those who are stuck in this no-win situation are a cop (Aaron Poole), his old flame (Kathleen Munroe) and a vulnerable pregnant girl (Grace Munro), along with a drug addict, two vigilantes and a training nurse who’s about to get a crash course in her chosen career.
As the body count gets higher and the stakes even more so, Gillespie and Kostanski start to wear their influences proudly. There are overt nods to The Thing, Hellraiser II, Society and Beyond The Black Rainbow (which is in itself a retro-horror that has its fingers firmly jammed in the 80s blood pie), to name but a few.
There’s also more than enough surreal Neon Demon-style yonic imagery to fill a bucket, with a dominant triangle motif recurring throughout. We’re told we’re about to witness the birth of a new era in human evolution, so at least it feels like it fits into the narrative somewhat.
One of the main issues The Void has is that it’s simply just dead keen to start the ride, splashing blood all over the screen not too far into its first act, which means that the film doesn’t work on building the kind of atmosphere that’ll leave you gripped to your seat. As a result, the creeping around in the dark and WHATAREWEGONNADO sections peppered throughout do tend to drag a little, but you can kind of forgive the film for its excitement, gleefully charging at you like an eager yapping puppy slash grotesque tentacle monster that only wants to plunge itself inside you for the greater good.
Another question you have to ask yourself with any film that leans this heavily on the nostalgia that you can still feel lingering from better films: is there enough originality outside of its influences for it to stick in the mind long after the credits roll? The answer, in this case, is yes. Just.
The Void isn’t up there with other, more worthy slam-dunk horrors like It Follows, Train To Busan or The Babadook, but it’s still fun as hell, and maybe that’s just what you need right now…
The Void is released in UK cinemas on 31st March