By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Appropriately, my first midnight feature of the festival was a doozy of a horror flick that left me wide-eyed and slack-jawed. It is also a film that left me with more questions unanswered than any other film of the fest. Writer/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steve Kostanski (Father’s Day, Manborg) have concocted a bloody and gory horror feast that plays like a throwback to late seventies and eighties horror flicks. Full of shock, awe, and WTF? moments, The Void is a movie that certainly deserves a cult following.
Small town police officer Daniel Carter has a strangely eventful night ahead of him. He discovers a badly injured man (Evan Stein) on a roadside and takes him to the local hospital where his ex-wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) works. As the night unfolds, some bizarre and horrific incidents take place, as some of the hospital’s employees begin to transform into otherworldly monsters. The employees and other people in the hospital attempt to escape, but discover that they are surrounded by strange, humanoids in white hooded robes who seem to have tremendous strength and other supernatural abilities. With nowhere to run or escape, Carter and the others must battle the monsters within the building while trying to uncover the truth behind these incredible events.
Gillespie and Kostanski have made an engrossing and fascinating horror flick that plays like a movie inspired by Rod Serling, but executed by either John Carpenter or David Cronenberg. The filmmakers choose wisely by utilizing practical effects when it comes to the violence, gore and monsters and this works so tremendously well. The story gets a tad too ambiguous for my taste and I felt I needed further explanation of what happens. Still, the movie is a refreshing offering, considering the tendency for modern horror filmmakers to rely way too much on CG effects, which often lack the organic quality and look that makes it all seem real and tangible.
The day following the movie’s premiere at Fantastic Fest, I was given the opportunity to speak with filmmakers Jeremy Gillespie, Steve Kostanski and producer Casey Walker about the movie.
Mark Saldana: While watching the film, I could easily see the influences of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and George Romero. What are some of the other influences that inspired your film?
Jeremy Gillespie: There are literary influences like Lovecraft, weird fiction, and that overall vibe. In terms of film, I’d say Aliens and Alien.
Steve Kostanski: In the first act of the film, we were pushing for No Country For Old Men in its look and atmosphere.
Gillespie: My favorite movie is The Shining, so Kubrick is definitely an influence.
Kostanski: Also, survival horror video games like Silent Hill are a huge influence. It’s got a lot of Resident Evil in it.
Gillespie: Definitely some Italian horror in it too.
Saldana: The symbols of the triangle and pyramid play such a large role in the film. Typically it is a symbol of change, spirituality, human development. Talk about your use of these symbols in this film.
Gillespie: With the symbol of change, you can go either way. We use it as a totem of a belief system. I’m not a big fan of filmmakers explaining very deeply into what they’re going for with their symbolism.
Casey Walker: We had lots and lots of conversations about not getting into the details of what the belief system is. We felt the ambiguity would be a lot scarier, than if we spoiled that. Keeping it vague is in more in keeping with the movie.
Gillespie: I think we chose that symbol because it is such a strong image. It’s so simple and you can hang lots on it. There are so many interpretations attributed to it.
Saldana: I absolutely love that fact that you all chose to go all practical with effects and the creatures. Talk about some of the pros and cons for taking that approach.
Kostanski: Practical effects are very time intensive. It took months to create all of our creatures before we even started shooting. On set, it is very time intensive doing a reset on a practical gag.
Gillespie: Practical effects take a large degree of knowing how to use them. There’s certainly an element that they don’t always work.
Kostanski: The idea was to make something that felt real and tangible. There’s a quality to effects in horror movies that has been lost in recent years due to CG. There is a disconnect with something you know that was generated by a computer.
Saldana: With the popularity of eighties homages such as Stranger Things on the rise, was it a conscious decision to give an eighties vibe to your film?
Gillespie: I feel like our film takes place in no particular time–No Time.
Kostanski: We did get into it, not wanting to throw it in people’s faces that this is a retro movie. It can take place at anytime, anyplace, anywhere, USA. We did, however, make a conscious decision not to include cell phones.
Gillespie: It is supposed to be a small town where everything is behind the times. It is more like a classic look for me, when all movies are supposed to take place.
Saldana: What are your feelings regarding the state of modern horror?
Kostanski: As long as people are putting out original ideas mixed with great influences, because there are a lot of modern horror filmmakers who grew up with the movies we grew up on. It Follows is a good example because it is a very original concept, but still has a vibe and tone that reflects a past era of horror movies.
Gillespie: I feel that horror moves in waves, like ghosts are really hot right now. But with this movie, it reflects our personal tastes. I like when things get really weird.
Saldana; Well, I have to admit that while watching your movie, there were several moments where I thought to myself, “What the f**k?!”
Gillespie: That is the highest compliment anyone can give us about our film!