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Monsters Invade Cinemas With ‘The Void’ And ‘Colossal’
Two new films try to inject new life into creature features
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Monster movies never go out of style, but keeping them interesting is the challenge. Two new creature features, “The Void” and “Colossal,” try to inject new blood into the familiar genre.
"The Beyond" (1981)
"John Carpenter's The Thing" (1982)
"Gemu" (2015, short)
“The Void” (which has its final screening Thursday night at the Digital Gym Cinema) is an indie horror film from Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski. They both worked previously on some big Hollywood films but not as directors. Gillespie worked in the art department (on films such as “The Suicide Squad” and “Pacific Rim”) and Kostanski in makeup special effects (on “The Suicide Squad” and “Crimson Peak”).
They team up for “The Void” and deliver a Lovecraftian tale that also sends tendrils out to a broad array of horror films, especially low-budget, 1980s genre fare, to borrow elements. And it borrows from Lucio Fulci’s Italian horror film “The Beyond” for an ending that lives up to its title.
The film begins a bit like John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” in that a cop comes across a man who has obviously been through a shock. He takes him to a hospital that is nearly deserted because it (like the precinct in Carpenter’s film) is in the process of being moved elsewhere. Shortly after they arrive strange things start to happen. Mysterious hooded figures line up outside the hospital, a nurse goes crazy and kills a patient, and a pair of men arrive and insist on holding the occupants hostage.
The story hooks you on some basic levels of fear and delivers some nasty gore effects, some involving tentacled creatures. There is nothing fancy here, but then, there are no pretenses about being anything other than a creature feature that wants to go all out. The end result is an entertaining horror film with solid acting, impressive special effects and a script that could use more focus and cleverness.
In contrast to the kind of low-budget leanness and unpretentiousness of “The Void” is “Colossal,” which stars Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. It is not a major studio film but it boasts well-known stars and a bigger budget for special effects. And in some ways, those elements may have actually hurt it.
A decade ago, Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo hooked me with his first feature “Timecrimes.” That film gave a clever spin to sci-fi and time travel. Now, he tries his hand at monster movies as a giant monster materializes in Seoul and wreaks havoc. The film opens with the monster’s first appearance and then jumps forward 25 years to when it appears again.
But as the story picks up in the present day, we meet Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an unemployed writer who has just been thrown out by her boyfriend who is fed up with her drunken behavior. So Gloria heads back to her hometown, takes up residence in her parents’ empty house and reconnects with an elementary school friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).
It takes a while (too long in fact) for Gloria’s story and that of the creature in Seoul to connect, but once it does, there is a bizarre cleverness to the film that proves compelling and fresh.
Vigalondo’s concept is fun and innovative, but lead actress Hathaway holds the film back with her self-conscious attempt to play a messy drunk with a monstrous secret. She has a horrible wig that seems to symbolize her awkwardness in the role.
Sudeikis, however, is the surprise of the film proving that he can turn on a dime to go from funny to scary. He seems right at home in the shifting tones the story takes and in finding some real depth to his character.
But the film as a whole never quite masters its tone. It is funny at times, unexpectedly scary in places and also tries to address real issues about the demons we can harbor inside.
Vigalondo is definitely a skilled filmmaker, but he seems out of sync in some ways with this bigger budget and lead star. But his cleverness still shines through, and his novel take on the monster movie combined with Sudeikis’ performance make this worth seeing despite other flaws.
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