May 15, 2017 The Void (Movie Review)
It is pretty hard to overstate the influence famed Horror Author H.P. Lovecraft has in Pop culture. From films, to games, and stories of all kinds, his work is the foundation for virtually all cosmic Horror across all entertainment. Adapting his stories directly has been met with mixed results at best, and it seems that the better approach has been to infuse original material with his themes.
One such creation is the new Canadian Horror film The Void. Premiering at Fantastic Fest in September of 2016, and garnered a fair amount of buzz, the film earned itself a widespread theater and VOD release on April 7th of this year via D Films. Using some of the classic Lovecraft themes like the great unknown, transhumanism, and body horror, The Void manages to put together a worthy entry into a sub genre that fans have been wanting more out of for years.
Directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie (Father’s Day 2011, The Editor 2014), the film opens with a junkie escaping a farmhouse and the murderous intentions of two men. His female companion is not so lucky, as she is gunned down and her body set afire by the mysterious interlopers. But are these men simple psychopaths, or do they have a reason for committing such horrendous actions? This question is answered sooner than later after the wounded junkie is picked up on the street by the film’s protagonist, Deputy Daniel Carter, played by Aaron Poole (The Captive 2014, The Forsaken 2016), and driven to Marsh County Memorial Hospital.
The hospital is operating with a skeleton crew due to a recent fire, including Carter’s estranged wife Allison, played by Kathleen Munroe (Survival of the Dead 2009, Eternal 2004). The situation quickly spins out of control, as before Carter can make sense of the junkie’s story and get some answers, one of the nurses is found with her face flayed of its skin, seemingly self-inflicted, and the bloody corpse of one of the patients with her.
The nurse is nearly mindless, and despite repeated warnings from Carter, she advances on him with her knife and he is forced to shoot her. Things go from awful to terrifying as the hospital is surrounded by cultists in white robes who prevent anyone from leaving, essentially making them prisoners inside. What they really have to worry about is soon made clear when the dead nurse rises as a gruesome, tentacled monster that is certainly not of this world. The motley gang of survivors, including the aforementioned men who attempted to kill The Junkie, must discover the secret of these unfathomable events and survive things that they could not possibly have prepared for.
The Void is a story that takes its audience through a gamut of otherworldly mystery and horror. It may feel familiar at first, but viewers will find themselves right alongside the characters, questioning reality itself by the end. The Lovecraft imagery and tone are everywhere, from the tentacled monsters, to the unexplainable alternate dimensions, and especially the idea that some secrets are meant to stay hidden. One of the core themes in the film and its influence is that humankind’s curiosity is both one of its greatest assets and greatest downfalls. Every secret must be unearthed, every dark corner illuminated, but the exploration of things far beyond our understanding can lead to consequences worse than death.
The performances are good enough and get the job done, but the only real standout is that of the film’s main antagonist, Dr. Richard Powell, played by famed Canadian Actor Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks series, Witchblade series). The good doctor had, at some point prior to the start of this story, discovered the existence of parallel universes and great power within them. His attempt to harness it for his own, originally benevolent purposes, have left him insane and a twisted monster of a person whose ends are now something much, much darker than they were. Welsh is excellent, conveying a slow, methodical, purposeful evil that is apparent in his mere presence. His mad ravings and depraved actions never feel hammy and are genuinely scary, especially in the film’s climactic scenes.
Another strong aspect of the film is its use of practical special effects. Almost universally lamented by film fans of all kinds, these kind of effects are what gave some classic ’70s and ’80s Horror films a big part of their charm. It was certainly the right choice for this movie, not just for budget reasons, but to give the monsters a tangibility that is sadly lacking in much of today’s CGI filled films. Without it, The Void could have been in danger of losing some of its edge, but viewers will be eager to find out what abomination waits around the next turn as they come ever closer to an end sequence that fits the story perfectly.
Although it does make some haphazard choices in moving the story along, The Void is an effective Horror film that will have the audience with them the entire ride. It is well written and paced, and the monsters and effects are very good. Horror lovers usually do not get a lot of quality Lovecraftian horror in films, but The Void has quickly established itself as a name that will be on any top ten list of them. Fans of the Father of Cosmic Horror and like-themed tales will certainly enjoy their time spent with this film, and for this reason, CrypticRock gives The Void 3.5 out of 5 stars.