Sometimes, one film is not enough.
I’ll often reach the final act of a movie, building up to the reveal, twist or whatever lives at the top of the audio visual crescendo that has been slowly bubbling to the surface over the last 70 minutes and I realise that tonight is definitely a double feature kind of night.
Dee Christopher here, bringing you new horror fuelled content every Friday, giving you my recommendations on what to watch this weekend...
Before we jump into the main content, I just received a press release from shudder reminding me that tonight is the finale of this season of ‘the last drive in with joe bob briggs’.
This episode sees Pinhead and Kirsty, or Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, from hellraiser in conversation with Joe Bob before they present one of the hellraiser movies followed by another mystery film. That’s one double feature I wouldn’t want to miss, it’s only available in the US version of Shudder, but as a lot of you guys watching are from the US, I thought it worth a mention!
From one double feature to the next, today we’re talking about a couple of films that work really well together when you’re feeling awfully nostalgic and want to get your teeth into some throwback style horror.
The Void and Beyond the Gates are two very different movies, but they do have pretty similar tones and touches of the same 80s neon aesthetic, I’d opt to watch Beyond the Gates first, followed by The Void, so we’ll start there.
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Beyond the gates opens with muffled sounds and a kind of dream sequence, seeing a happy family opening a video store some time in the past, we see two young brothers who will grow up to become our protagonists, a mother and a father who will disappear to become our inciting action.while beyond the gates doesn’t feel quite as dark and serious as the void, it has some brilliantly caricatured humans at its heart.
The two brothers have grown up to be polar opposites, one sensible, almost nerdy brother and the other appears to be somewhat off the rails, surfing couches and mixing with less than desirable people.
The core story revolves around the brothers packing up their father’s abandoned video store, we quickly learn that he has vanished into thin air many months ago, leaving no trace behind.
The real story however, comes from the relationship between Gordon and Johnny, in the development of the brothers’ characters and the way they feel towards one another.
The director, Jackson Stewart, spends the first hour of the film basically setting up the characters and the story, it’s a drawn out process to get all the information across, but it’s not boring - there’s a lot going on, so it’s quite an appropriate way to do things. Little bits of mystery are revealed as we move steadily through, which all lead up to us being thrust into the action during the final act.
This isn’t really a comedy film, but there are some pretty funny moments, mainly the kills, you’ll find floating intestines and exploding heads among other things, all practical fx, and Barbara crampton’s portrayal as the host is equal parts comedic and creepy as she guides the lead characters through the reality bending video board game she hosts while wearing Taylor momsen inspired make up.
The way the host interacts with the characters reminds me of playing atmosfear as a child. It felt real, as if the host was seeing us through the screen, so for me, it was very easy to get what the characters were going through, even if playing vhs games as an adult doesn’t quite have the same scare factor!
As for production, the cinematography is good, set design and lighting is good, the sound is good and the soundtrack is great. It’s the music that really helps give the movie that nostalgic feel over any other element.
Beyond the gates is a well written movie with lots going on, solid characters with quite rich backstories and a well told story. In saying that, I did find the ending to be a little anticlimactic, it wasn’t bad by any means, I just felt like I wanted more.
If I was to match this up with a similar film for our double feature, I’d probably have put it with sequence break, but when I craft a double feature, I want to feel as if the two movies fit together in sequence, the former feeds into the latter, so that’s why I’ve selected the void as our second movie of the night.
Immediately from the get go you can feel that the atmosphere filling the void is thick enough to cut with a sharpened blade, we get introduced to a ominous hooded character in the very first scene and as the movie proceeds the number of these faceless characters grows exponentially.
I’ve enjoyed watching the void many times, so I’m pleased that it’s now on Shudder, as well as amazon prime video, and available on both blu ray and dvd in most major stores.
The tag line reads “there is a hell, this is worse”. Which is extremely accurate, even if it’s not apparent right away.
Several people end up in a half burnt down hospital, only one wing is active, so there are few members of staff and even fewer patients. The hospital it’s self is a character in the movie, the slow, creeping establishing shots wandering the halls are very effective in building the tension and the story really rides this wave from the top.
We don’t learn much about the characters at the start, they reveal themselves as the story moves forward, and this is a really smart choice to help give the audience a feeling of reality. We’re dropped into the middle of a story, which is fantastic, and it’s the completely opposite strategy than beyond the gates, which is one of the many reasons these films work together as well as they do.
You’ll feel strong callbacks to Hellraiser 2 in this film, from the creature design to the lighting and obviously the set. Speaking of lighting and production design, the team behind this film do a wonderful job.
the cinematography can be formulaic at times. like when you’d expect a handheld shot, you’ll see a handheld shot, when you expect a creeping gimbal shot, the DP has definitely strapped on his ronin, but these rules are in place for a reason; you forget that the camera is there and you find yourself getting lost in the world in front of you.
It’s a very impressive achievement to gain that kind of advantage when storytelling.
There is a lot of action in The Void, so much so that it feels like a survival thriller, but dressed to be a body horror with supernatural tendencies.
The characters, while sometimes a little lacking in backstory, are all extremely strong and carry the story nicely.
The structure is fairly straight forward, there aren’t any real major twists or turns that put a spanner in the works, but this works in the directors’ favour as the story is very good.
I don’t want to spoil too much of what goes on between the walls in this movie, it’s a difficult one to review without spoilers, but style wise, it’s killer, the story is great, the production design, cinematography, acting and sound are all top notch, and I really don’t have anything bad to say about it beyond what I’ve mentioned already.
I think the key with a movie like this, acting as a modern throwback to 80’s and 90’s horror, is creativity in crafting the lore that surrounds the story. You need to make it feel as if whatever is at the centre of core story is real and far more expansive that what is presented in the 90 minutes you have with the viewer.
I’d be very interested to watch a sequel to this movie, I have no idea where is would start or where it would lead, but I was left feeling like I really want to take a guided tour that runs deeper into this world as it seems very unlikely that the person at the centre of all this is the only one in the world who knows the things he knows and is on the path he is on.
Beyond the gates receives a solid 6/10 and the void an 8. Watch them together in this order and I guarantee it’ll be a fantastic few hours staring through a screen into two very different worlds that sit alongside one another nicely.
but if you only have the time to check out on of them, I urge you to deep dive into the void and let the story carry you deeper down into the darkness.
As mentioned, I’ve put links down below you can follow through to either stream the movies or buy the dvds, for transparency, I’ll make a minute kickback from amazon if you do buy through my link, but it won’t cost you any more.
Both films are streaming on amazon prime video here in the UK, the void is on shudder here and for those of you in the USA or elsewhere, you’ll have to have a quick google, but I think Hulu is your best bet.
Well, that’s all from me today; if you want to see more of these double features let me know in the comments below and if you’re not subscribed already, be sure to hit that little red button - it’s free and it helps me out a whole bunch!
I’ve been, and ever will be Dee Christopher, I upload new horror fuelled videos every single week and I look forward to seeing you next time...