Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this Arctic port
Aboard this tiny ship.
And within the first few minutes, Arctic Void has us on a small Norwegian tourist vessel along with, among others, Ray (Michael Weaver, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Ravage) and Alan (Tim Griffin, The Gift, The Collection) who are shooting an episode of their travel show. They’re joined by Sean (Justin Huen, Angel of Death, The People I’ve Slept With) a last minute replacement for their usual cameraman who, for reasons unknown, was denied a visa.
Captain Jim (Rune Temte, Heavy Trip, Captain Marvel) fires up the engines and heads out to show everyone the wonders of nature. But they’re not long out of port before they begin noticing something strange is happening to the local wildlife. A bird that seems to have had its eyes removed, a mother walrus attacking it’s calf, etc. But the real strangeness occurs later, when everyone except Ray, Sean and Alan disappear into thin air.
Director Darren Mann (This Cold Life) co-wrote Arctic Void’s script with Michael Weaver and William Paul Jones. And it’s obvious it was written with the film’s miniscule budget in mind, apart from the CGI animals there are no effects or action set pieces. Instead it relies on dialogue to help establish the characters and drop a few hints about the situation.
This approach, and the Twilight Zone type of feeling it creates only increases in the second act as the trio spot a town in the distance and use the ship’s raft to go looking for help. Needless to say it is also deserted. This was shot at Pyramiden, a mining outpost built by the Swedes and sold to the Soviets before being abandoned in 1998. The area’s permanent deep freeze has preserved most of the buildings in the state they were when it was abandoned. A few others have been restored as tourist attractions.
Not only is this the perfect setting for a film like Arctic Void, nothing raises the paranoia quotient of a film’s plot like a mysterious relic from the Cold War. And the film uses it to build a good deal of suspense through the second act as the characters try to figure out what has happened and cope with a situation that would drive many people over the edge.
And, to a certain degree that is what seems to be happening to Alan. But it’s not just his mental state that’s crumbling. His body is showing signs of the same kinds of trauma that the animals are. Is that somehow related to the issues that plagued him before he found God and became a husband and father?
Unfortunately it’s when it gets to the point where we need those answers that Arctic Void starts to crumble as well. There are some hints scattered through the first hour if you’re paying attention. But even if you miss them it’s not too hard to connect a few of the dots and get a general idea of what happened. I’m not sure if the weak final act was the result of poor writing or the lack of money to film something better but it’s a big disappointment after what comes before it. Instead of ending with a punch in the gut Arctic Void just limps along to a weak non ending.
If Arctic Void had taken not just its setting from the Cold War but some plot tips from some of that era’s more paranoid thrillers it would have been a lot better off. Instead it’s a frustrating watch that crashes just short of the finish line. The cast and crew show a lot of promise, hopefully they’ll get a better chance to show it off.