Into The Void

Gruesome cosmic horror hits VOD today

Ask Canadian horror wunderkind Steven Kostanski what his favorite Stuart Gordon movie is, and he bypasses the obvious classics like Re-Animator for a deeper cut. "That's so easy," he said. "Robot Jox. No contest. I've got the poster in my apartment. It's the best.'

"That's a wicked movie," added producer Casey Walker.

"We wanted this to be in the same tonal universe as the movies we grew up watching, like Prince of Darkness and Hellraiser." Director Steven Kostanski on taking a darker turn for The Void.

However deep their love for Gordon's rock 'em, sock 'em, sci-fi blast is, it's his Lovecraft adaptations like Dagon and From Beyond that drip heaviest upon their new creature feature, The Void. The gore-drenched monster movie, which arrives on VOD today and opens in Austin on April 14, received its U.S. debut on the opening day of Fantastic Fest 2016, slithering into the midnight slot straight after a much more cerebral take on the alien incursion. "Arrival and The Void," said Kostanski. "That's a good double bill.”

"That's a lot of black, floating things in the sky," added Kostanki's co-writer/director Jeremy Gillespie.

Both films feature creatures that are completely alien, both in thought and form, but that's where the similarities end. In The Void, Sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole, Strange Empire, The Conspiracy) finds himself trapped in a hospital, surrounded by bizarre, robed cultists. That soon becomes the least of his concerns, as the walls of reality come crashing down.

The human victims are beset by a universe of nightmares, where gory creatures like Organ Sac Man and Bloody Hole Face rub distended shoulders with implacable, pandimensional, dark deities. Moreover, in the age of CGI beasties, Kostanski and crew went for the visceral pleasures of practical effects. He called their mad plan "very ambitious, but fortunately it's a team of people who have worked in every situation. I've got people on the team who worked on In the Mouth of Madness, one of the guys worked on The Descent, one of the guys did all the Saw movies. They come from every possible background, so they were able to approach every situation and come up with a simple, practical way to achieve the craziest effects."

Austin Chronicle: So whose warped and twisted idea was this?

Steven Kostanski: Jer was the one who came up with the initial image of the giant black floating pyramid, and the whole movie was born from his idea. So it's his fault.

Casey Walker: We only have him to blame.

AC: So from what fever dream nightmare did that erupt?

Jeremy Gillespie: I was working on a movie, and on the floor above Guillermo del Toro was working on At the Mountains of Madness. I read an interview with him, because I was really interested in what they were doing, and he said, "We're doing Lovecraftian things like no one has ever seen." I was like, well, what would that look like? I instantly got the image of this pyramid.

If you know Dungeons & Dragons at all, there was a Monster Manual that had the plane of Nirvana, and it had all these geometrical monsters. They always stuck in my mind as the most insane creature design I could think of. It's so inorganic, and the pyramid is such an ubiquitous and insane image. The idea of a conscious thing like that, to me, is very interesting.

AC: It's the antithesis of God as a guy on a fluffy cloud. It's not even implacable. It's "I don't even know what this thing is."

JG: It's the Lovecraft thing of inexplicable. It's not just all tentacles.

CW: Because he didn't have descriptions of creatures. He planted ideas in your mind, so you came up with what it looked like.

SK: And then you go more off characters being totally baffled and driven insane, than going off any kind of rational thought they may have.

"It's the Lovecraft thing of inexplicable. It's not just all tentacles." Writer Jeremy Gillespie brings the cosmic horror in Fantastic Fest fave The Void, arriving on VOD this week.

AC: The best description of any monster ever is "eldritch abomination." Not only do you embrace that ethos, but you went practical for so much.

SK: I don't think we could have afforded it in CG.

CW: I don't think we would have wanted to. These guys had been working on this for about two years before I came into the picture, but the thing that attracted me the most, other than it being way out there, was that we agreed: Let's build this. Let's not rely on the computer at the end.

SK: I work in creature effects, that's my trade. So the whole idea was, do all these kind of effects that I'm doing on these big movies, but do our own ideas, work to our strengths. Not be in that situation where we're working in a factory making stuff for movies that will never get seen. To actually build creatures and feature them onscreen, and make it a love-letter to practical effects.

AC: It also feels like a tonal shift from something like the zanier Manborg. How much was there an appeal in doing something that was much more a straightforward horror, and dealt with more mature, darker issues, like losing children and the body in rebellion?

SK: It was a challenge to ourselves to try and make something that was crazy in concept, but committed to taking it seriously. It felt like that was the next logical step as filmmakers, to make a film that couldn't just be dismissed as being a jokey homage. We wanted this to be in the same tonal universe as the movies we grew up watching, like Prince of Darkness and Hellraiser.

JG: You do a thing for an amount of time and you eventually want to do something else. It's kind of good that it's such a left turn.

The Void arrives on VOD and limited theatrical release today. Read our Fantastic Fest review here, and find listings here.

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