[Featured image – The Devil’s Candy courtesy IFC Midnight]
Another year, another bumper crop of horror movies. As always, the horror genre continues to provide truckloads of cash receipts to studios. 2017’s horror releases provided their own unique road-map of scares – from faux documentary (Creep 2), to Stephen King coming of age tale (IT), to social satire (Get Out). In a pleasant change of pace for horror fans, some of the highest grossing genre titles also earned critical raves to go with the oceans of green (IT and Get Out earning 84 and 99 percent Fresh ratings respectively at Rotten Tomatoes).
Late last year, Thrillist’s Best Horror Movies of 2017 (So Far) by Scott Weinberg inspired me. How many of the listed movies could I watch before January 1, 2018? How would my opinions agree or clash with Mr. Weinberg’s? I started off with House on Willow Street (here at F&S) andThe Void (reviewed at SciFi4Me). However, due to things like “work” and “going to Urgent Care“, I only managed a total of 16 out of 30 movies.
Detailed reviews of my arbitrary groupings will follow. For starters, here’s my ranking of the sixteen movies I managed to watch, with Scott Weinberg’s ranking in parenthesis.
The Top Tier
1 – Raw (5)
2 – The Devil’s Candy (8)
3 – Creep 2 (16)
4 – The Void (28)
5 – Split (15)
6 – Get Out (1)
Fun Creature Features
7 – Life (17)
8 – Alien: Covenant (23)
9 – Annabelle: Creation (27)
The Stephen King Afterschool Specials
10 – Gerald’s Game (4)
11 – IT (2)
12 – 1922 (13)
Beautiful, but Remote
13 – It Comes at Night (22)
14 – A Dark Song
OK for a Matinee
15 – Cult of Chucky (30)
16 – House on Willow Street (29)
Some people have a post holiday season goal to get back in shape after too much indulgence. After reading Scott Weinberg’s “The Best Horror Movies of 2017 (So Far)“ on Thrillist, I have a pre-New Year’s goal. As I read through Mr. Weinberg’s list, I realized I’d only seen six of the 30(!) movies featured.
What to do?
Start a crash horror movie watching regime, of course. Thanks to Netflix I caught The Void. Now I’m only 23 movies behind instead of 30. As I go through titles I’ll put up a short review – and be better prepared to creat my own “Best of” list for posting here on Fand and Saucer and SciFi4Me/Horror4Me.
Let’s begin, shall we? The Void (2016)
Written and Directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski
The Void opens with a jolt. A bedraggled young man flees an isolated country house moments before a woman is dragged outside, murdered, then set on fire. The fleeing man (Evan Stern) runs in front of the patrol car of Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole). Carter takes the badly injured man to the closest hospital.
Unfortunately for Daniel Carter, his passenger, and everyone else we meet in The Void, the soon-to-be-shuttered hospital isn’t so much a House of Healing as a Portal to Hell.
As a fan of creepy abandoned places, horror movies set in creepy abandoned places, and Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror, I was predisposed to like The Void. It makes the most of its setting, story, and characters to produce a movie that, for worked on all levels. It drew me in to its world, kept me watching, and left me eagerly waiting for The Void 2.
Besides the skillful blending of the horror elements above, The Void takes care to adhere to storytelling logic. All of the characters have a logical reason for being at the hospital (work, illness, medical emergency). The hospital’s imminent shutdown explains both the minimum number of staff and patients and no new characters showing up once the story gets moving. Anyone who’s ever had to work the last shift in a closing store or business understands this set of circumstances and the attitudes of the employees and patients stuck in it.
Directing/Writing team of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski effectively create the mundane reality of the characters and their environment. It’s easy to accept the almost imperceptible slide into unreality – the police car that suddenly seems much farther away from the hospital entrance than when we first see it, the hallucinations and visions, the sudden blurring of lines between reality and nightmare.
The cast is solid. Veteran character actors Kenneth Welsh (Dr. Powell) and Art Hindle (State Trooper Mitchell) lend gravitas to their authority figure roles. Kathleen Munroe (Deputy Carter’s estranged wife Allison), Ellen Wong (flippant student nurse Kim), and Stephanie Belding (Beverly) express both professionalism (or lack thereof for Kim) as well as sense of a closing crew’s boredom and overwork
Even the characters we only know as “The Father” (Daniel Fathers) and “The Son” (Mik Byskov) are effectively established. It’s a compliment to the entire production that every character could simply be identified in a similar way – “Old Cop”, “Young Cop” “Estranged Wife” “Pregnant Teen”, “Grandfather” and still be memorable individuals.
For a soon to be closed hopital, a LOT of people are stopping by tonight.
The Void’s practical effects recall the classic work of Rob Bottin (The Thing, 1982), Chris Walas and Stephan Dupui (The Fly, 1986), and Yûichi Matsui (Infection, 2004), even some of the later creature effects fall a bit short in execution compared to those three. By the time Daniel reaches the ultimate truth of what lies beneath the hospital, I was too wrapped up in the story to nitpick.
The dividing line between who will enjoy this movie or not can be easily summed up. Mr. Fang and Saucer took in about 30 minutes of The Void before deciding it was time to go play Candy Crush. By comparison, when Carter witnesses a skinless mass of blood and flesh uselessly bashing their head into, and through, a metal bar in a futile effort to finally die, I felt sadness and pity. It was both a total gross-out and a heartbreaking callback to the finale of Cronenberg’s The Fly, when Brundlefly pulls a gun to his head and wordlessly begs Veronica to end his existence and his torment.
The setting of The Void drew me in even as it creeped me out. Even as it transformed into a trans dimensional charnel house, I wanted to explore more of the hospital and the charnel house below it.
The ending of The Void, like final shot of The Beyond is both mystifyingly bleak – and oddly optimistic. We see two characters in a landscape that resembles a mix of Ancient Egypt and the Alien hellscape of LV-426.
Do we know where the two surviving characters are? What they’ve become? Nope and Nope. But I have a sense that, just like Ash at the end of Army of Darkness, the next chapter of their story is just beginning.
And I’d love to see it.
More more goopy Lovecraftian goodness, check out The Void Official website, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
It is available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu