Horror Mystery Arctic Void (2022) Leaves Its Audience Out in the Cold
Title: Arctic Void
First Non-Festival Release: January 14, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Darren Mann
Writer: William Paul Jones, Darren Mann, Michael Weaver
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Starring: Michael Weaver, Tim Griffin, Justin Huen
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The arctic tundra has captivated the imagination of humans for centuries thanks to its inhospitable weather, lengthy journey required to visit, and opportunity to answer some of life’s biggest questions. The terrain may be home to more enigmas than originally anticipated.Cue Arctic Void, a mystery horror film that takes place on a cruise headed to an isolated town in the Arctic Circle.
Reality television star Ray Marsh (Michael Weaver), producer Alan (Tim Griffin), and cinematographer-for-hire Sean (Justin Huen) are among the passengers on a standard cruise up north to explore and see the sights. Halfway through the trip, the entire ship vanishes into thin air leaving the three men perplexed and worried. After making their way to the nearest town, they realize that they are alone and subject to the cruelty of conditions, both the natural and supernatural.
Interesting ideas within a beautifully obscure setting ultimately lead to little in frustratingly unrealized indie sci-fi horror Arctic Void.
Its plodding mystery makes for a decidedly difficult watch as characters gradually piece together what has happened to them. Much like an episode pulled out of “The Twilight Zone”, the horror and intrigue behind Arctic Void happens between the humans reacting to the insane situation they are fighting against. Unlike “The Twilight Zone”, Arctic Void holds its answers close to its chest even long after its finale ends. Its focus on ambiguity works well in the beginning but slowly wears its welcome as the protagonists wander and wonder around the barren landscape and facilities.
Unsatisfying in execution, Arctic Void decision to stick with mostly unanswered questions make it an ultimately disappointing experience. While it is unfair, and unwise, to expect a film to spoon-feed every detail and answer to an audience, it is necessary to provide some direction in understanding the events that happen. Each writing decision in Arctic Void feels unearned in its deliverance of its chilly mystery. As the characters meander through the compound and unravel, so does the audience’s patience. By the time it reaches its irritating and cliché conclusion, the focus is entirely gone.
Uneven characterization makes it difficult to stick with its trio of hapless explorers. While they each have their own demons and role in the story, their general personalities mimic each other similarly. All three of them are various shades of annoying, entitled, and creepy, which makes it difficult to differentiate or get behind them throughout the film. As their sanity wanes, these lines blur together even faster, but this descent doesn’t feel earned based on their timeline and exposure to the elements. It doesn’t help that the middling performances from the cast do little to salvage their uninteresting characters.
Arctic Void isn’t without its merits. The scenery and setting provide some truly beautiful cinematography. Claustrophobic by nature, the frozen tundra and brutalist design of the building’s architecture help craft a compellingly creepy atmosphere. Quite a few of the set pieces are interesting and showcase that there is creativity behind the camera. The use of polar bears as a secondary antagonist adds to the tension in the film despite it not amounting to much in the end.
Despite a compelling premise, Arctic Void cannot capture the energy required to propel its thin story into the realm of notable modern horror releases. Its first act sets the tone for an exciting mystery before succumbing to a shapeless script that does little to inspire fear or intrigue in the audience. Before fizzling out in its bafflingly cliché finale, Arctic Void manages to create a modicum of tension and utilize the environment to the best of its abilities. Fans of conceptual horror or ambiguous stories will find much to chew on here, but those seeking a more traditional approach to horror can pass on the whale blubber offered in Arctic Void.
Overall Score? 5/10