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Review: The Void

Apr 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221365:43495:0[/embed] The VoidDirectors: Steven Kostanski and Jeremy GillespieRating: NRRelease Date: March 31, 2017 (UK); April 7, 2017 (US)  Daniel (Aaron Poole), a small town cop, finds a distraught man on an empty road in the middle of the night. This guy's just fled from a mysterious home invasion and murder, but Daniel doesn't know that. Daniel brings the man to the local hospital for treatment. A group of cultists surround the hospital, and strange, cosmic horror-y things begin to happen. The characters are quickly hewn from familiar tropes: the protagonist's estranged wife (Kathleen Munroe), a pregnant woman about to deliver (Grace Munro), a caring town doctor everyone respects (Kenneth Welsh), and two killers with uncertain motives who may or may not be good guys (Daniel Fathers and Mik Byskov). This group has to fend off the evil outside while strange powers turn people into tentacled, tumored, cyst-covered creatures that are a little bit H.P. Lovecraft and a lot of Rob Bottin. It's a modest set up, but there's a lot to do within that framework. Writers/co-directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie know their way around genre conventions and the camera. As the film goes wild with creatures and slime, they do an admirable job of making their film feel like an artifact of the VHS era. Even though the characters are usually one-note, there's a genuine sense of tension as they fight for their lives. In the first creature scene I think the effects are shown too obliquely and there's too much flickering light, but Kostanski and Gillespie typically show their horrors in all of their wonderful, lymphy madness. Yet as The Void unfolded, I felt like I was mostly noticing nods to other films rather than getting lost in The Void. When The Void revealed a plot twist, I thought about another movie; when a creature appeared on screen, I thought about another movie; even when The Void ended, I thought about another movie (two, actually). What I'm getting at: The Void is a great stroll through a videostore, but it doesn't go that additional step beyond its influences to become its own thing. I think about cover bands that don't quite twist the original enough, or maybe a tribute band--songs in the style of a downbeat Lucio Fulci zombie movie as done by John Carpenter. It's not like Kostanski and Gillespie lacked their own material. The mythology of their cosmic horror is promising. Sadly, it's left vague--a pretext for plot rather than something fully realized--and they never allow their own mythology's eldritch contours to wrest control from their genre forebears. There was so much unexplored territory they could have covered, but they stuck to the well-worn paths that others had made before them. I couldn't help but feel disappointed even though I liked what I saw. Experiences like this that make me appreciate the originality of those seminal 80s horror and sci-fi films. It's easy and enjoyable to recreate moods and pay homage to scenes, but much harder to go that extra step and create something genre-defining. That said, I want to see what Kostanski and Gillespie do next. There's promise in The Void, and maybe if I were younger or hadn't grown up watching the same movies the filmmakers did, I would find the movie more satisfying. I just hope in their next movie Kostanski and Gillespie get away from the videostore and put more of themselves and their original ideas front and center.
Review: The Void photo
Fulci + Carpenter + Lovecraft
The 80s aesthetic is chic these days in genre films. Just take a look at Beyond the Black Rainbow, It Follows, or The Guest, among others. Homage and pastiche don't guarantee quality, of course, but it's an indicator tha...

Nazi punks f**k off photo
Nazi punks f**k off

John Carpenter is fighting with neo-Nazis over the message of They Live

This is the world we live in today
Jan 05
// Hubert Vigilla
They Live is one of John Carpenter's indisputable masterpieces. Part satire and part ass-kicker, the film is all about the horrors of capitalism, consumerism, and 80s excess. Yet because the Internet exists and it is awful, a...
John Carpenter new music photo
John Carpenter new music

John Carpenter releases new song from Lost Themes II, announces US tour dates

This is your new jam
Feb 17
// Hubert Vigilla
We mentioned not too long ago that horror maestro John Carpenter is working on a new album and will play a few live shows. Well, the first track from Lost Themes II came out earlier today and it's called "Distant Dream." The ...
New John Carpenter album photo
New John Carpenter album

John Carpenter's Lost Themes II coming in April, with live shows and possible US tour dates

If I were a carpenter...
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Last year, horror maestro John Carpenter released the album Lost Themes, a collection of original compositions that could have come from one of his movies. If you loved Lost Themes, you'll be happy to know that a new Carpente...

Halloween Returns photo
Halloween Returns

Halloween Returns will start shooting July without Rob Zombie

The Bat, The Cat, and The Shape
Jun 16
// Hubert Vigilla
The Halloween franchise rides again with Halloween Returns, which starts shooting in July. Halloween Returns, incidentally, is almost as silly a title as Halloween Rides Again but not as good as Halloween: Tokyo Drift or...
Big Rock Little Johnson photo
Can ya smell what Jack Burton is cookin'
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is currently in negotiations to star in a remake of John Carpenter's 1986 cult classic Big Trouble in Little China. The screenplay for the film will be written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, ...


I wish this fake ad for The Thing toys was real

Aug 27
// Alex Katz
I had the pleasure of seeing The Thing for the first time on the big screen a couple weeks back (on 35mm, no less), and like most of you, the film left me with one lasting thought: "Gee, I wish that toy companies had pr...

The Cult Club: They Live (1988)

Jan 10 // Sean Walsh
The film begins with the title over black, which transitions into the same title as graffiti on a classic 80’s graffiti wall. We’re then introduced to Piper’s nameless drifter, “Nada,” a man who just wants to put in a hard day’s work and get what he has coming to him. In the world Carpenter shows us, it’s no easy job. On a construction site he meets Keith David’s purple tank top-clad Frank, who invites him to the shantytown Frank and dozens of others are living out their lives in. One thing leads to another, and Nada quickly discovers that everyone is being brainwashed by subliminal messages everywhere they look by vaguely human-looking aliens that live amongst the general population in disguise and only special sunglasses can give them away. “What?” you may be asking. Let me assure you: this movie is absolutely fantastic. Having met Rowdy Roddy at Wrestlemania III, Carpenter knew that the man was just the kind of rugged badass he needed for the nameless protagonist and wrote the role specifically with Rowdy in mind. Similarly, having previously worked with David on The Thing, Carpenter knew that the man could provide just what he needed in an atypical sidekick: sheer, unadulterated Keith David-brand badassery. As such, Frank was tailor-made for David. The dynamic of the two actors, initially, is like oil and vinegar. Nada is, despite all odds, a fairly easy-going optimist and Frank is a pissed-off mother who is mad as hell and is just short of not taking it anymore. It doesn’t really matter in the end, because once Nada gets the sunglasses and discovers that everybody’s being brainwashed by horrid creatures, ‘easy-going’ turns into ‘shooting non-people with a shotgun in a bank.’ Once he comes back for Frank after his brief but newsworthy killing spree, the two engage in one of the finest street brawls in the history of cinema as Nada simply tries to get the man to try on the glasses and see the real world for what it is. Now, let’s talk about the ‘real world’ of They Live for a second, in case you’re unfamiliar. Billboards featuring your favorite products? Pop on those fancy sunglasses and you’ll see they say things like ‘Obey’ and ‘Consume.’ Pull the money out of your wallet. What does it say where George Washington should be? ‘This is your God.’ Pick up this month’s issue of Hustler and it will tell you to ‘Marry and reproduce.’ Go visit your local grocery store butcher and you might notice something a little off about his complexion, along with half of the people in the store with you. Also, they all have watches that also function as not only communicators but also teleporters. Oh, and if you throw in with the invaders, they’ll almost double your income and you can live the sweet life in exchange for betraying your entire race. It’s grim, it’s not subtle, and it’s beautiful. That’s John Carpenter for you. This satire on the rampant consumerism and commercialization of the 1980’s is a result of Carpenter turning on the TV and not liking what he saw. “I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something…it’s all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money.” Buying up the movie rights to sci-fi writer/propeller beanie inventor Ray Nelson’s short story Eight O’Clock in the Morning and a short comic based on it, Nada, from the comic Alien Encounters, Carpenter got to work. While he wrote the script, he credited himself using the alias “Frank Armitage,” a nod to H.P. Lovecraft’s character from The Dunwich Horror, as he felt the common element of ‘the world underneath’ in Lovecraft’s work had everything to do with They Live.  After eight weeks of shooting and $3,000,000, They Live was unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses on November 4th, 1988 and sat in the #1 spot at the box office for three weeks. They Live is one of those movies that you don’t see much of anymore: stupid fun without sacrificing its own brand of (albeit questionable) quality. Who didn’t feel the pathos of a dying Nada, having accomplished his mission of destroying the signal transmitter on top of the roof of Cable 54, flipping off the now-revealed aliens in the helicopter above him? Who didn’t wonder with a tongue firmly in their cheek how, after jumping into the blue, glowing hole in the ground that opened up, Nada’s machine gun turned into a pistol? Who could do anything but grin as they realized that the devices the aliens use to track humans are repurposed PKE meters from Ghostbusters? Who would be unable to find the alien makeup endearing, with the mouths that don’t entirely match what they’re saying? This movie is classic in its quirks. The legacy of this film is a fun one. Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey was partially inspired by They Live for his “OBEY” campaign. South Park recreated a large portion of the epic brawl between Nada and Frank in the episode “Cripple Fight.” Duke Nukem borrowed (and slightly tweaked) Piper’s famously ad-libbed line, “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum.” [embed]206386:37671[/embed] With lines like “Brother, life’s a bitch…and she’s back in heat,” “Mama don’t like tattletales,” and “This world needs a wake up call, gentlemen. We’re gonna phone it in,” visceral fights and tense shoot-outs, treacherous dames, and more machismo than one can shake a stick at, They Live is that perfect blend of action, science-fiction, humor, and social commentary. Talk of a remake has floated around, but this is one movie that does not need it. For all its flaws, They Live is only more endearing because of them. And really, nobody can shoot a little UFO out of the sky with a shotgun like Rowdy Rider Piper can. If you’ve never seen They Live, it’s on Netflix Instant Queue. It’s only an hour and a half long, but you’ll wish it was longer. [embed]206386:37672[/embed] Next month... Cub reporter Alec takes on House, the sensational 1977 Japanese horror film that will  blow your mind with its weirdness. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING AT THE CULT CLUB December: Jingle All the Way (1996) November: The Blood Trilogy (1963-65) October: Dougal & The Blue Cat (1970) September: Top Secret! (1984) August: Battle Royale (2000) July: Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

[The Cult Club is where Flixist's writers expound the virtues of their favorite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pac...

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