HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VOID (2016)

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THE VOID (2016)

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The Void is not only a trippy tribute to horror films of the 80s and the practical make-up and gore effects used in them, but a bloody good time and a creepy monster flick in it’s own right. The film opens with a young couple being chased by two men, with the man (Evan Stern) barely escaping and the woman being shot and then brutally burned alive. The man is found by local policeman, Dan (Aaron Poole) and brought to a nearby hospital that is in the process of closing down after a recent fire. There the cop and minimal staff and patients find the building soon surrounded by mysterious and lethal hooded figures, while inside it starts to turn into a house of horrors, as staff murder patients and the dead return to life transformed into creatures from out of a nightmare. Can Dan, his nurse wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) and the remaining survivors figure out what is happening and how to get out alive?

Written and directed by the team of Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, this is a mash-up/homage to the films of John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon, among others. There are elements of Assault On Precinct 13, The Thing, In the Mouth Of Madness, as well as Re-animator, From Beyond and a host of other cult classics. But Kostanski and Gillespie make it their own with their tale of other dimensions and nightmarish activities and the film is filled with some really unsettling imagery and a host of practical creatures and gore, along with it. The story itself is a bit convoluted at times and the filmmakers don’t spoon feed you everything, but that works far more in the film’s favor than it doesn’t. It’s a disturbing ride, loaded with atmosphere and we do gradually find out enough of what’s going on to satisfy, as the deliberately moderate pace carries us to an unsettling conclusion right out of Fulci’s The Beyond. Sure the acting is a bit wooden here and there and the FX are a bit rubbery, but it’s the charm of what the filmmakers are trying to do and of the many cult classics they evoke, that makes it so enjoyable and fun. Not to mention the filmmakers do conjure some of their own goosebumps along the way. It may not make total sense, but it is enjoyably creepy and when the gore hits the fan, it hits delightfully hard and spatters everywhere. There is some effective cinematography by Samy Inayeh and a cool soundtrack by Blitz//Berlin, who did the soundtrack for Extraterrestrial.

I enjoyed this love letter to many a classic 80s film, including Galaxy Of Terror…which I just re-watched…yet one that didn’t loose it’s own identity. It’s a weird flick that is part Lovecraft, part Carpenter with a few other pinches of famous names of horror thrown in. It has some effectively designed creatures and some delightfully gory moments and gives us some spooky visuals along with the thrills and chills. You may scratch your head a bit here and there, but it’s fun throwback that may have introduced us to two filmmakers to keep an eye on. Also stars Art (Black Christmas, The Brood) Hindle as a state trooper and Scott Pilgrim’s Ellen Wong as an intern in over her adorable head.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scalpels, because I didn’t want to spoil any of the weirdness.

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

While I still believe it was the success and impact of John Carpenter’s Halloween that was responsible for the 80s slasher film era, it may very well be this holiday themed Canadian horror flick that came out 4 years earlier, that is responsible for inspiring Carpenter’s classic… though it has never been acknowledged, there has been talk of it inspiring the Halloween producers to make a horror of their own, and Bob Clark has made comments that Carpenter was a fan of his film. We may never really know. As it is, Black Christmas is perhaps the first horror to use what is recognized as the modern slasher film formula by presenting us with a serial killer stalking and killing the members of a sorority house during the Christmas holiday. With most of the girls away on vacation, those remaining at the Pi Kappa Sig sorority start getting obscene phone calls from some unknown but, obviously deranged individual. Also unknown to them but, made fully aware to the audience, is that this individual is actually in the house and one by one he starts to gruesomely claim his victims. Will any of the young women of Pi Kappa Sig survive?

Directed by A Christmas Story’s Bob Clark, Black Christmas is a stylish and sometimes very creepy little horror that has earned it’s place as an inspirational film and a horror classic. It’s not a personal favorite, as certain aspects of the movie don’t quite click with me but, there is also much that does. Clark makes really good use of some very unsettling POV shots of the killer entering the house and then stalking his victims. He also has the killer using inventive ways to dispatch his victims which would become a trademark element of slashers to follow. The film has a really nice visual style as lensed by Reginald H. Morris… it sometimes evoked the style of Dario Argento’s more classic work, thought it predates his breakout film Suspiria by 3 years… and oddly one can see where the look of Clark’s other Christmas classic evolved from. Clark gives the film a moderate pace and takes his time between the bloody killings, the best of which involving a glass unicorn… one of the Argento-ish scenes I was referring to… but, does maintain the atmosphere of dread throughout. What takes this film down a few notches for me is that the killer’s phone calls with their multiple voices and bizarre rambling, in my opinion, are more silly then scary as are some lighter toned sequences peppered throughout, that seem to shadow the offbeat humor that would make the adventures of Ralphie and family such a delight. There are those who aren’t bothered by some of these borderline silly sequences but, I find them a little jarring in the context of the more serious and unnerving tone of the rest of the film. I also think it’s hard to swallow that with people gone missing and later in the film when the police realize the killer was in the house, that at no point does anyone ever search the attic. Not buying it. But, credit where credit is due, Clark really brings it home in the goose-bump inducing last act and we get an ending that… much like Halloween years later… makes us look over our shoulder after the film is over.

The acting is a mixed bag. Lead Olivia Hussey is a little wooden at times and despite that fact that we should like her, she comes across as very cold in a subplot involving getting pregnant by her musician boyfriend (Keir Dullea). And while on the subject of Dullea, his Peter is a little ‘off’ but, since he becomes a suspect, that was probably intentional. Future ‘Lois Lane’ Margot Kidder plays the feisty bitch Barb with some gusto but, while it appeared she would be the lead, the focus shifts off her to Hussey’s Jess who becomes our main character. We also have SCTV vet Andrea Martin as one of the sorority girls and genre legend John Saxon, who is solid as always, as the cop investigating the case, Lt. Fuller. Rounding out the leads is Art Hindle as the boyfriend of missing girl Clare (Lynne Griffin), whose character Chris fades in and out of the story and wears one of the most obnoxious and out of place fur coats seen in movies.

So, the film is a classic and I certainly agree, especially as it may be the first true modern slasher… Peeping Tom and Psycho are highly recognized as ancestors to what we refer to as the slasher film and certainly were inspirations to some now legendary horror film directors who emerged in the 70s and 80s. It may not be a favorite of mine but, I give it the respect it deserves and am thankful for many of the films it helped inspire. Another must watch for those later generation slasher fans who aren’t yet familiar with it and are interested in how this sub-genre evolved.

3  Christmas trees.

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