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Friday, April 14, 2017

The Void



The Void
2016
Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski

Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is a cop who is just about to go off duty when he sees a man stumble out of the woods, wounded and delirious. He takes the man to a hospital. Unfortunately, the only one close by is in the process of closing for good, thanks to a recent fire. As Daniel delivers the stranger, the building is suddenly surrounded by robed figures bearing a single dark pyramid shape on their hoods. Something awful awaits to be birthed from the hospital, and no one there can leave.

It is odd that, for all its popularity among horror fans, cosmic horror is not really touched on very often in television or cinema. Perhaps it is because effective cosmic horror hangs on the intangible; its source is a sense of dread from something vast and unseen. One of the strengths of the written word is that it can evoke the intangible with relative ease, in a visual medium, that is much more difficult.

The infamous Triangle Man
One of the things I am most pleased about is that despite its numerous homages to Carpenter, Lovecraft, and Fulchi, The Void forges its own identity. Too often modern films get so caught up in displaying reverence for a time-period or director they feel like little more than fan films.  The Void wisely keeps from doing any clever name checking, or creating any specific connection to the Lovecraft mythos. The setting, tropes, and characters feel familiar, but have enough quirks and hidden traits that create something of their own.

Visually, The Void is excellent. It never belies its small budget. Keeping the events mostly confined to a single location is used as an advantage as to keep the pressure turned up on the characters. The hospital is cavernous, you never get a good idea of geography but that may be intentional. The creatures are grotesque lumpy horrors that lovingly created through practical effects. In fine cosmic horror tradition, you rarely get more than a glance at them, leaving much of their anatomy to your imagination. In contrast, the cosmic part of the cosmic horror is often presented in a way that is clean and beautiful. The black pyramid motif serves as bridge between these elements, being shown both simply and cleanly and sometimes in a more chaotic fashion.

"This light is working wonders for my Seasonal Affective Disorder."
The plot could use a little more of the elegance of the visuals. What seems like a simple ‘base under siege’ story starts to grow needlessly complex with multiple pregnancies, threats from within and without, and needlessly antagonistic characters. I understand the need for the story to keep upping the threat to characters who cannot escape from their situation, but it feels clunky in the process. Thankfully, by the time, the story hits its climax, all the elements have fallen into place in a very satisfying way.

While The Void never quite manages to create the stomach-dropping fear of something like the opening and closing dream sequences from Prince of Darkness (1987), it is none-the-less a solid entry in the subgenre. The Void is a masterfully crafted work of cosmic horror. I hope this is a sign of more great (and eldritch) things to come.

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