The Void (2017)
Two favourite Canadian filmmakers of mine, Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie from the collective Astron-6, partnered up to create a terrifying world simply known as The Void. There’s nothing empty to find here. Plenty of blood, guts and splatter will get anyone salivating! This movie is getting screenings across the United States starting April 7th, and is also available on VOD for those who do not live nearby to see this film on a big screen.
The Void has a lot for lovers of 80’s horror cinema to enjoy. Although billed as trying to be new, I thought it payed homage to the style I enjoyed from this decade by upping the ante with higher production values.
When you are dealing with picking up a bloodied traveller in the middle of the night on a lonely road, perhaps it’s better to drive away than to offer help. On a routine patrol, police officer Dan Carter finds such a victim and hurries him to the nearest hospital in hicksville. Sadly, it’s staffed by a skeleton crew and when Carter tries to calm down two gun-toting yahoos storming in to the building, a lot of terrifying things manifest and he discovers more than just another mad doctor in the midst.
Carter does a great job at trying to take control of a situation only getting from bad to worse. The actor, Aaron Poole, shows he can command the screen. When I saw him in The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (a truly wonderful take on the haunted house concept), he’s playing an opposite type of character (a non-believer). In this movie, he has to believe (much like Mulder has to in The X-Files) and deal with the supernatural head on! In what he finds, the terrors are real (no CGI was used in the making of the monsters in this film). The make-up effects and prosthetics are great to look at. As for what can happen to him next requires a second film to be made.
When this movie was Indiegogo funded, chances are unlikely for a continuation, but I can hope! The triangle symbol the cultists wear on their white robes is telling. The pyramid shape has meaning, and to develop the lore requires a new story to explore why it’s important. Could there be a new Leviathan in the same veins as Clive Barker’s Hellraiser universe? Or will the survivors just try to carry on with the rest of their lives? Most likely, no. I don’t want to give too much of this story away, but it’s certainly worth multiple watches to make sense of it all, especially with cosmic terror that’s encroaching.
On the big screen than small, the final moments are justified to feel the scale of what has transpired and that alone is worth the price of going to the theatres to enjoy than to watch it on a small screen.
4 Stars out of 5
Ghosts of Darkness (2017)
David Ryan Keith’s Ghosts of Darkness is a fun little paranormal piece now available on VOD via Uncork’d Entertainment. This British indie movie starts off well , with an ominous tone, but when the low budget special effects aspects of this film reveals itself, some aspects of the production requires suspension of belief to make this tale chilling. Jonathan Blazer (Paul Flannery) and Jack Donovan (Michael Koltes) are two paranormal investigators recruited to check if a century-old manor is indeed haunted, and if so, clear it. Their approaches are different such that one uses mediumship and the other uses technology to document the various cases they go on.
For Donovan, he carries a lot of dead weight on him, and the tale is more about him than Blazer. He lost his wife due to his profession. Ghosts have tormented and forced her to take her life. The husband carries a lot of guilt, and this backstory keeps this film fresh.
There’s not a lot to know about Blazer. I can not help but wonder if he’s channeling a few mannerisms from James McAvoy (X-men). Intentional or not, the fact these two are psychics adds a layer amusing to this film for those in the know. The scares are light — nothing fans of theatrical ghost stories have not seen before — and the evil is nothing you have not heard before. When a cult used this mansion in the past, its history will no doubt be dug up and its influence on later residents will also include hints of Amityville House in the tropes used.
Overall, this film is an enjoyable romp where the best conflict comes from the two investigators bickering over which method is best to deal with in order to communicate with the dead. The story only gets good when the viewers make bets over who will come out alive. True to this genre, there can only be one survivor.
3.5 out of 5
Tom Costabile’s VooDoo might have worked better had it been filmed and told from a different perspective. I love films exploring this Haitian / West African religion proper and given authentic scares like in The Serpent and the Rainbow. While this writer/director made this film to prove his chops in making a horror film — to which it has promise in the last act — the rest was like watching a sorority girl’s party (as seen and filmed by the party gal) slowly going to hell in a handbasket fast.
The found footage format only works when I am led to believe the biography is real. Dani (Samantha Stewart) left the New Orleans bayou for life at the west coast metropolis to escape the life she had back home, or perhaps run away from it! When she and Stacy (Ruth Reynolds) are partying it up in Los Angeles, and she has someone recording, I can follow along. But when the last act goes gonzo, where you are left wondering who the camera person is, I’m left scratching my lead — who is handling this video camera? how the heck has this footage made it back to this dimension for someone to see the material?
Certain high profile movies like Sinister, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity (the franchise) makes the found footage format good. With other films, the scriptwriters have to insure the logic of who is holding the camera or how the “films” are discovered only to be viewed later stays consistent. When it’s being passed to another person or is put on a tripod, this detail needs to always be made clear.
The budget Costabile had to work with shows how much of a low-budget indie feature this film is. Suspension of disbelief is required to appreciate the last act where the lack of budget shows. It’s like walking through a carnival funhouse of horrors made by farm-hands instead of terror meisters. It’s enjoyable and you get the feeling Costabile wants to make Stewart a new scream queen. His approach is very punk, and what he needs to do next is to either up the ante or keep this style going for his next horror film to carve his niche in a very competitive market.
2.5 out of 5
Bio: Ed Sum shares his love for pop culture and the paranormal in print publications like Absolute Underground Magazine and contributes to online sites like 28DLA.com and Otakunoculture.com. When he’s not chasing after ghosts, he’s reading up on them and studying the occult.