The Void – Movie Review: a supremely confident blend of cosmic horror and human carnage
To bastardise a fairly obvious Friedrich Nietzsche quote, “If you gaze long enough into the void, the void will throw back at you a truly satisfying blend of Lovecraftian terror and body horror, that manages to both unsettle and entertain.” Or something, I don’t know, I was shit at philosophy. I am good at watching horror movies though, and I loved this one.
The Void takes place in a small, local hospital during the course of one night. There’s a skeleton staff, including Allison whose estranged police officer husband Daniel has recently brought in an injured young man on the run from a pair of murderous strangers. Things take a turn for the extreme when a fellow nurse slices off her own face and stabs a patient in the head. Meanwhile the hospital is surrounded by an army of mysterious cloaked figures, brandishing ceremonial knives with black triangles emblazoned on their faces. And this is only the very beginning of how messed up things get. There are also foul-looking tentacled humanoid monsters, skinless reanimated corpses, a demon pregnancy and a cosmic monolith.
On paper it sounds like a gonzo-mix of unworkable elements, but the genius of The Void is how it all just makes total thematic sense in context. And just how bloody wonderful it all is.
The Void is at once familiar, yet unlike anything you’ve seen before. The nods to other horror movies and books are plentiful, but they never feel derivative. It’s a supremely confident blending of cosmic horror and human carnage, that forces you to question all sorts of terrifying matters beyond your tiny existence, and yet ultimately makes you glad of the human connections you’ve made.
Writer and director team Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie are part of the Astron-6 collective, whose work includes the tongue-in-cheek retro horrors The Editor and Manborg, however with The Void, Kostanski and Gillespie aren’t dicking around. This is the real deal.
The creature effects are clearly a labour of love for Kostanski and Gillespie, they pass The Thing test of being so grotesque they’re hard to look at, but also so impressive you have to admire the craftsmanship. And they really are disgusting. You’ll take the Blair-Thing over what The Void presents in its gruelling finalé any day. Later when our heroes venture further down into the hospital basement, they’re met with an array of abominations that far outstrip Hellraiser’s chattering cenobites or the morgue cadavers in Re-Animator.
As well as The Thing, it borrows a little of the foreboding atmosphere of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, but The Void’s ultimate influence is found in the pages of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulu haunted nightmares. The many cuts to an otherworldly realm where a giant triangle hovers through the swirling chaos are absolutely chilling. The Void avoids jump scares, but instead suffuses dread into every last corner of its triangular motif.
The fact that Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie manage to balance so many disparate elements and moving parts to make a coherent, unified whole is a hell of an achievement. This is far from a ‘let’s hold up in a building and fight the scary guys outside’ movie. Threats are everywhere, but The Void is constructed masterfully to make the most of all its various horrors. As exemplified in an incredibly tense scene involving a four-way stand-off involving a pregnant hostage, a shapeless monster, the police, some armed strangers, and the hooded figures outside. An early line of dialogue, “Statistically you’re more likely to die in a hospital than anywhere else” hangs over the movie like a portent.
Dialogue moves gracefully between humour and general “what the fuckery” via more transcendental matters. And at times The Void is surprisingly very touching. At the heart of the story are parents who have lost their children, and after all the unrelenting horror there’s a message that although the abyss is terrifying, perhaps it’s a little less terrifying when you’re facing it with someone. It’s a rare horror that manages to find hope in utter oblivion, but The Void manages it. I smiled gleefully throughout the whole thing. 5/5
Please note, this review was originally published last year as part of our London Film Festival coverage.
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