Color, 2016, 90 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski
Starring Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Mik Byskov, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding
Screen Media (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Signature Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

The Void

The VoidAfter sending up drive-in action films, sci-fi, and even gialli with their films like Father's Day, Manborg, and The Editor, it was only a matter of time before the members of the Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6 would turn their gaze to straight-up horror. Though not an official Astron-6 production, The Void is the brainchild of two of its members, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who managed to produce a gory, rapid-fire homage to the entire genre from the '80s onward (comparisons to John Carpenter, Lucio Fulci, and Clive Barker have been frequent) with a dash of Silent Hill and a barrage of gleeful practical effects resulting in an energetic monster fest.

A monstrous siege erupts at a remote hospital after Deputy Daniel Carter (Poole) finds a bleeding local junkie crawling in the road after fleeing for his life from gun-toting killers at a farmhouse. Daniel's decision to seek aid turns out to be a dubious one when he goes to his estranged doctor wife, Allison (Munroe), and right away her colleagues and patients are terrorized by inexplicable events including sudden brutal murders, skin removal, and a gathering of sheet-covered The Voidcultists swarming outside in the woods. The VoidPlagued by strange visions, Daniel soon finds himself leading the survivors in a fight against a growing barrage of tentacles, monsters, inappropriate medical practices, and a vast supernatural threat within the bowels of the hospital itself.

An enjoyably freaky carnival ride of a film, The Void started to build up enthusiastic word of mouth immediately after its bow at Fantastic Fest in 2016 and became embraced as a leading title in a spate of critically acclaimed horror films released almost back-to-back in early 2017. Its fairly limited presence on the big screen (it hit rental streaming at the same time) is a shame as this is a film best experienced with other viewers, so try to gather around as many friends as possible for a first viewing. The trademark goofball, pop culture-themed humor of Astron-6 is significantly absent here; there's a bit of humorous dialogue and a giggle-inducing jump scare or two, but the film plays it quite straight and goes for full-on horrific thrills, succeeding for the most part in its mission on the way to a climax that manages to evoke three horror classics at the exact same time. Thankfully the characters and dialogue remain focused on the threat at hand without getting into anything jokey to ruin the mood, and for old school horror fans, there's even a small role for Canadian hororr staple Art Hindle (The Brood, Black Christmas) in the first third.

The VoidShot for the most part in near darkness, The Void makes a fine transition to home video with stacked Blu-ray from Screen The VoidMedia available exclusively from Diabolik. (A more stripped-down DVD is also available from general retailers.) The transfer looks as immaculate as you'd expect for a 2016 production, with a pristine presentation (love those blues and reds) treated well with a fairly robust bit rate that hovers between 22-35Mbps for most of the running time and avoids any noticeable compression issues. Audio options include DTS-HD MA English 5.1 or 2.0 audio (go for the 5.1 -- it's a room shaker), with optional English SDH subtitles, plus a commentary by the directors and, on the Blu-ray only, a commentary with the film's visual effects crew.

As you might expect, the director's track is much more lighthearted than the actual film as they discuss their desire to make a genuine horror film, the one exterior location (in December - ouch), the extensive makeup effects, the tricks of making a "pulsing meat blob," and the degrees to which they drew on previous films (their comments about the lack of intentional Carpenter and Fulci references are, uh, not entirely convincing, though props for diverting one significant point of comparison to Stargate: Atlantis instead) and other influences like H.P. Lovecraft. You also won't believe which sequence was done in a high school gym. Their pet dogs make a few noisy cameo appearances, too, so don't freak out when you hear sudden barking coming from your speakers. Kostanski also moderates the second track with the effects gang, Michael Walsh and Nicola Bendrey. The VoidThey're also in good spirits as The Voidthey start off talking about how they meet and some of their other projects (Pacific Rim, The ABCs of Death, the TV shows Hannibal and Defiance) and then segue into several anecdotes about the complex variety of effects involving facial appliances, fake slit throats, rubber monster limbs, and the "exhausting fun" of various creature shop shenanigans. Also exclusive to the Blu-ray is "Nightmare Logic: The Making of The Void" (25m41s), with the primary (and not-so-primary) cast and crew chatting about the very sticky making of the film with a ton of behind-the-scenes footage showing plentiful latex and fake blood flying all over the place. (Keep an eye out for those pet pups during the director interviews, too.) Also included are the film's theatrical teaser and trailer, as well as bonus trailers for Darling and Sugar Mountain. A region-locked UK edition is also available containing the director's commentary, a different configuration of the behind-the-scenes raw material (which is turned into a general making-of, a creature creation featurette, and "The Art of The Void"), and a proof of concept trailer.

Reviewed on May 9, 2017.