THE VOID is a beautifully executed horror film that pays homage to the genre’s roots while carving out its own enigmatically creepy mythos. Playing on such familiar tropes as the deserted farmhouse, the dark basement, and an axe swung with abandon, it takes place over the course of one night in a soon-to-be abandoned hospital miles from anywhere in the middle of the moonless woods.
After a prologue involving a pair we will meet later (Daniel Fathers and Mik Byskov) running amok at the ci-mentioned farmhouse, we meet Daniel (Aaron Poole), a laid-back sheriff’s deputy with a mordant sense of humor. He is keeping a lackadaisical watch on a deserted stretch of country road until his ennui is broken by James (Evan Stern), covered in blood and crawling along the ground after escaping from the murderous pair from the farmhouse. Daniel speeds him to the nearest hospital, which has two things against it. One, it’s being shut down after almost being destroyed in a fire. Two, his estranged wife, Allison (Kathleen Munroe), for whom he still pines, is the head nurse.
Things will, of course, get worse. And in classic horror story fashion.
Communication with the outside world is cut off, the lights inside the hospital become problematical, and outside, at the sounding of a mournful foghorn, white-robed figures, with black triangles on their hoods, maintain a silent, motionless vigil. Well, mostly motionless. Daniel finds himself on the wrong side of a knife when confronting one of them. Inside, their relative sense of safety is challenged when a nurse (Stephanie Belding) takes a pair of scissors to a patient’s eye, and then the murderous pair from the prologue show up with murder at the top of their agenda.
Meanwhile, a cherub of a heavily pregnant teenager (Grace Munro) suffers complications as her fretful grandfather (James Millington) frets, the sulky student nurse (Ellen Wong), the one who points out early one that you are more likely to die in a hospital than anywhere else, is forced to confront several of her worst nightmares, and the avuncular Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh), shares nuggets of homespun wisdom about love and loss as the dead seem to rise, but not as anything so mundane as zombies.
The film builds slowly and steadily to a cataclysmic climax, with long static shots giving way to quick cuts and frazzled nerves of a hand-held camera. The monsters of the piece are revealed piecemeal, a gory tentacle here, a milky ooze there, a mound of unidentified viscera. Visually engrossing and narratively as slick as that ooze, the action is grounded by a refreshingly revisionist take on heroism, and a performance from Poole that blends Daniel’s determination to maintain order, along with a modicum of sanity, while also acknowledging the increasing unreality of their situation. There is a tenseness in face and body language that is unmistakable as he surrenders to the weirdness and still keeps going. Starting when he shoots the rampaging nurse without hesitation, and then throws up. That a seizure with weird visions followed the vomiting furthers the disorientation, as does the tentacled creature that attacks James and kills the state trooper who showed up a little too soon for plausibility after the shooting.
THE VOID does more than shock as it thoroughly entertains. Like all the best horror, it plays on primal fears as well as primal needs, starting with the fear of the dark, and working up to metaphysical longings for immortality, while never violating its essential popcorn-flick essence.