Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Void: Lovecraftian Hospital Horrors

They picked a heck of a time to close this remote medical clinic. Most of the emergency supplies are in mothballs already. It’s a rather inconvenient development, because the skeletal staff and their patients will be needing the odd suture when death cult attacks and Hell is loosened upon the Earth in Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski’s deliciously Lovecraftian The Void (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Poor officer Daniel Carter has no idea what he is in for when he scrapes up a battered and bloody derelict up off the highway. The closest medical facility is not exactly optimal, because it is slated to shuttered (in the wake of a mysterious fire)—and also because his estranged wife Alisson Fraser is still the lead RN there. Soon after checking in his mystery patient, Carter is forced to discharge his firearm when an orderly kills a patient while apparently in a state of demonic possession. Things go from bad to worse, when a small platoon of sheet-wearing cultists ominously surround the beleaguered hospital, but it really turns into a one-darned-thing-after-another kind of night, when two armed backwoods vigilantes in a kill-them-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out mood crash the party looking for the new patient.

Oh, but that isn’t even the half of it. By about the midway point, things take a distinctly Lovecraftian turn. Let’s just say when you look into the Void, the Void doesn’t just look back into you. It offers you a Faustian bargain of cosmic proportions.

That noise you hear is the sound of social justice warriors gnashing their teeth. That’s right, Lovecraftian horror is back and its bigger than ever. Yes, the frail, socially isolated early Twentieth Century writer wrote some less than edifying racial commentary, but the sickly Lovecraft didn’t have a chance to get out much and his misanthropy was the understandable result of long-term exploitation and poverty, so give it a rest. Along with several recent shorts, including The Call of Charlie and An Eldritch Place, The Void proves how compellingly eerie Lovecraftian themes and motifs can be on the big screen.

Regardless, The Void is tense, creepy, and frequent all-out nuts. Gillespie & Kostanski (alumni of the Astron-6 collective playing it straight for scares) throw just about every form of conceivable peril at Carter and Fraser. We really start to care about them because Aaron Poole and Kathleen Munroe develop such believably frustrated but still affectionate chemistry together. The presence of Kenneth Welsh (Windom Earle in Twin Peaks) also gives the film instant genre cred.

The creepiness of the nearly empty hospital cannot be overstated either. The production design tandem of Gillespie and Henry Fong did some tremendously effective work. There is no question this is one of the most sinister looking and sounding films of the year, along with Blackcoat’s Daughter. Highly recommended for horror fans, The Void opens this Friday (4/7) in New York, at the Village East.