practical effects

The Void

void

A small town sheriff finds a bloody man on the side of the road during the night. He takes the man to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, it is in the process of closing down so there is only a small skeleton crew there to help. Soon after the sheriff arrives, strange people wearing cloaks and hoods surround the building. What’s worse, people are dying and turning into something otherworldly, threatening the existence of the sheriff and the hospital staff.

The Void has a dark and mysterious plot that encompasses many themes. While this film has its own original story there are many aspects that are meant to remind the audience of classic eighties horror movies. Watching this film you will see things that are reminiscent of The Thing, Hellraiser, and various Lovecraftian films. Because of these nods to previous films audiences will be split on their opinion. Some will love the nostalgic touch this film has while still bringing something new to viewers. Others will think the filmmakers were simply being lazy or stealing from previous films. Either way, the film is creepy, intense, and it will keep you interested in what happens next.

There are some areas where the plot is a bit lacking. One of the major issues is the relationship between the sheriff and his ex wife, who happens to be a nurse at the desolate hospital. There isn’t enough character development for either character, let alone their strained relationship. There are also scenes that are visually interesting, but they don’t necessarily serve the plot. If anything, they distract from the story line because these scenes attempt to add a few too many subplots. While overall the plot is exciting, there could be improvements. Aside from the various issues with character development and subplots, the most distressing issue is the very last scene of the film. Without giving too much away I can say that I simply wish the last scene had been completely cut. It is unnecessary and takes the film to a laughable place.

The special effects are where The Void truly excels. The filmmakers opted for practical effects, which is in keeping with their desire to bring a bit of nostalgia to their modern, unnerving film. The bizarre mutations shown throughout the film will not only remind you of the classic films listed above, but they are also simply beautiful. It isn’t all good news though. The coloring of the film is so dark that many of these gorgeous effects are virtually impossible to see. When I watched the film I had to turn the ‘brightness’ level up significantly on my television in order to clearly see what was going on and how the practical creations looked. With all the effort that clearly went into creating these monstrosities it seems careless to make them disappear in the darkness of the film.

In a film with such a small cast, one bad performance can ruin the entire movie. Lucky for The Void, none of the performances stand out as being poorly done. Although there aren’t any performances that stand out as being great either. This could be a result of the lack of character development mentioned earlier; there was simply no dimension to the characters resulting in a void (excuse the pun) of outstanding performances. The two leads, Aaron Poole (The Conspiracy, Forsaken) and Kathleen Munroe (Supernatural, Resurrection), are perfectly fine in their roles. They are likely the only two actors audiences will remember after watching the film. Sadly, it is probably because they simply had the most screen time.

I had high hopes for this film. The Void pays homage to many frightening films that came before it, but it sadly doesn’t quite live up to the legacy it honors. There are several highlights, such as the practical effects and the overall story, but there are quite a few aspects that diminish the quality of the film. If the film could be brighter in color, focus more on the character development, and eliminate some of the frivolous scenes, then The Void could become something very accomplished. As is, it is a fun flick and will remind you of films you watched growing up.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Green Room

A punk rock band is coming to the end of their cross-country tour. In a last minute change of plans, the band gets booked for a gig at a venue in rural Oregon that is known as a skinhead hangout. They decide to take a chance and perform, hoping to get the money they need for the long drive home. After their set ends, the band witnesses something horrific in the green room. It soon becomes clear that this group of friends is going to have to fight in order to survive the night.

While I anticipated this film would be exciting, I did not anticipate the brutality and depth of it. There were multiple layers to the plot, and the characters all had so much more than what was just on the surface. One of the things I love about this story is how quickly the feel goes from everything being fine to all hell breaking loose. It was like the flick of a switch. From that single moment the band realizes something horrible has happened, they know that their lives are in danger. That intensity and fear bleeds from the screen and surrounds the audience. It is almost impossible as an audience member to not be at the edge of your seat, feeling like you are fighting through this horrific situation along with the band. This would not have been possible if the filmmakers had not done such an amazing job with the character development. They made you care about the band members and whether or not they would survive the horrors they faced.

This was a film that really had some unexpected brutality. What made it work was that it wasn’t brutality just for the sake of having violence. It was brutality that moved the story along and showed how truly evil this skinhead gang was. Of course, it is difficult to really talk about the violence unless you also discuss the insanely perfect practical effects. Green Room has some of the most amazing, realistic practical effects I have seen in recent memory. What made the combination of violence and practical effects work so well is because most of the time it happened at an unexpected moment. The filmmakers did a great job of letting the audience know that something horrible was happening, but then it went even further and shocked them by the sheer barbarity and gruesome nature of the wounds inflicted. I found myself on more than one occasion while watching Green Room wanting to cover my eyes with my mouth hanging open in shock. The ferocity of the violence truly took this film to another level.

There were so many incredible performances in Green Room, it is difficult to select just a few to focus on. While everyone was amazing, I’m going to narrow it down to three performances that still stand out in my mind days after seeing the film. I, of course, have to begin by talking about Anton Yelchin (Odd Thomas, Star Trek) as the band member, Pat. Full disclosure, I have a soft spot for Yelchin. I think he is an incredibly talented actor, and I have yet to see him in a film I didn’t love. Green Room was no exception. His character is lovable, kind of spacey, and ever the optimist in the darkest of circumstances. Another great performance came from Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Fright Night) as the mysterious Amber. Poots was absolutely tremendous in this film. What I found so engaging about her character is that she comes from the backwoods skinhead culture, so as things unravel she acts almost as a guide for the band. She clearly understands what is going to happen, but she doesn’t associate herself as part of the malicious group of skinheads. Finally, I was really surprised by Macon Blair (Blue Ruin, Murder Party) as Gabe. Gabe acts as a manager at the skinhead bar. What I loved so much about Blair’s performance was how clearly he showed Gabe’s internal struggle. On the one hand, Gabe desperately wants to impress his boss and move up in the skinhead gang’s ranks. On the other hand, Gabe knows what is being done is wrong, and he is clearly battling with himself on what he should do. This was the first film I had seen Blair in, and my focus was drawn to him every time he was on screen. I want to be sure to mention all the amazing actors that made me love this film, so I will give a “shout out” to Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Mark Webber, Callum Turner, Eric Edelstein, Kai Lennox, and of course Patrick Stewart.

I really can’t emphasize enough how much I loved this film. Green Room is a ruthless tale of savagery that will excite and shock audiences. What takes this film to the next level is that it has all these traits while also having substance. There is a real story here that draws you in. The viciousness of the acts is only a byproduct of the unfortunate events that occur. Do not pass on this punk rock tale of a group of friends fighting for their lives against unspeakable odds.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

Throwback Thursday Movie: Re-Animator (1985)

A medical school student named Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is trying to find a classmate to be his new roommate. When a mysterious new student answers his add, Dan’s world gets turned upside down. This new student, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), is obsessed with finding an agent that can re-animate dead tissue. Dan slowly gets sucked into Herbert’s work. It doesn’t take long for things to go awry, with some dire consequences that the two students may not be able to get themselves out of.

I know this may come as a shock to many horror fans, but this was my first time seeing Re-Animator. I know, I know! It’s shocking. There are many classics that I need to catch up on (which is why I do Throwback Thursday reviews). This is a film I’ve always wanted to watch. I see clips of it here and there on different horror TV networks, plus it has quite the reputation as a cult classic horror film.

Going into this film, the one thing I was the most excited about was the practical effects. Luckily the film lived up to my expectations. Eighties horror and scifi films always have the most creative and elaborate practical effects. Re-Animator doesn’t use as many practical effects as I was expecting, but the ones they do use are pretty amazing. Two of the stand-outs are a mangled, deceased cat that gets re-animated and a re-animated headless body (along with the severed head). With the severed head they did a great job going back and forth between using a model head and the actual actor’s head (which was stuck through a hole in a table).

Generally speaking, the story was interesting and kept my attention. While I wouldn’t technically call this a zombie film, it takes an interesting approach to the how and why the dead would be brought back to life. I enjoyed that it went in a more scientific direction than many living dead films do. There were some aspects of the plot that I don’t think worked quite as well. There were many times during the story where I couldn’t help but think “why?” Why was Herbert so obsessed with proving he could re-animate dead tissue? Why did Dan trust Herbert so easily? Why was Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) obsessed with Megan (Barbara Crampton)? These pieces of the story made things more exciting, but I hate not knowing why they happened in the first place.

Considering this is a campy eighties horror flick, the acting is surprisingly good. Jeffrey Combs (Frighteners, From Beyond) was equal parts creepy and intriguing as the obsessive Herbert West. Throughout the film he does an amazing job of portraying the borderline psychotic need Herbert has to prove his theory, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. Bruce Abbott (Dark Justice), while not really a standout in the film, was still enjoyable to watch. At times his character felt a bit bland, but that could have been more due to writing than his acting. My favorite performance came from David Gale (Bride of Re-Animator) as the menacing Dr. Carl Hill. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to play a severed head, but he pulled it off in a way that was disturbing and comical all at the same time.

While I couldn’t say this film is my favorite eighties horror film, it’s definitely a fun watch that will appeal to many viewers. Re-Animator is a cult classic for good reason. Whatever it lacks in the scares, it greatly makes up for in weirdness and humor. It’s a fun story with a bizarre cast of characters. Add that to the delightfully cheesy eighties practical effects, and you get a recipe for a fun flick that will entertain people for years to come. This is a film that every true horror fan should see at least once.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10