The Void: The Perfect Lovecraft Movie
A Horror Movie Review
Why had I not heard of this movie before Halloween? I really don't care what the critics say. If you check, IMDB gives this movie a 5.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 73%, and Empire gives is 3/5. This seems like a movie to see once and forget about it. I promise you, if you have a thing for C'thulhu, Azathoth, or the Deep Ones (among other Lovecraftian monsters), you will enjoy this movie and come back to it again and again.
The first thing you must understand about The Void is that it is a horror movie in the traditional sense of the word. It is not meant to frighten you, though perhaps it will do that. It is not meant to give you that cheap rush of adrenaline we receive after a jump scare. Everything about this movie is meant to disturb and agitate; to fill you with the kind of unknowable dread that can only come from interacting with destructive gods older than time and more infinite than us puny humans can comprehend.
I may be taking this review a bit too seriously, but I really loved this film.
Let's begin by setting up the story. Daniel Carter is a police officer on late-night duty in the middle of a forest. As he's sitting in the car doing pretty much nothing, a man stumbles out onto the road who is badly hurt. Daniel shuffles the man into his car and drives as fast as he can to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, it's one that is closing down to be moved. Due to a huge impending forest fire, the hospital has been all but vacated. On staff are three nurses (one who is an intern) and a single doctor. There is one patient bedridden patient in a room and a very pregnant girl waiting with her grandfather. That sums up the total amount of people in this building.
This almost immediately becomes a monster-in-the-house movie. We've got our "house" (the hospital), so now we just need our monster. Thankfully, the monster is not exactly obvious at first but definitely follows the Lovecraftian troupe. First, one of the nurses goes a little... well, let's say she keeps saying that her face isn't her face and tries to fix that problem without anesthetic. The in-bed patient is dead, as is the insane nurse, and Officer Daniel is having a difficult time keeping himself together. I have to assume that this is a quiet, small town where nothing much happens and everyone knows everyone else. Otherwise, the characters nor their reactions would make sense. However, if we assume small-town, everyone is reasonably consistent throughout.
A few more people show up to the hospital, two of whom have had run-ins with the movie's monster and the cultists who worship/create them. These cultists show up around the same time...
The image of the triangle is noticeable and easily identified throughout the film. The symbol is wonderfully powerful yet vague. We never are told "this is a portal to another dimension" or "this is a cult symbol" or any such hand-holding nonsense. What little information we can gather is by context and a few lines of dialogue. These lines are a little more specific about the triangle's usage, but the conversations feel natural and the information is not forced. More than anything, what makes this work so well is the fact that not much is known about the triangle. There are many ways in which the triangle is used, and so the mere sight of it raises questions and feelings of dread even though we have no definitive explanation of what it is.
So, the cultists are the factor keeping our hospital heroes from leaving, but the monsters do not take the form of the cultists. They are actual, horrifying, interdimensional creatures. In certain aspects, they remind me of The Thing and all of the monsters created by Stan Winston. If there were CGI effects used on the creatures, they were so minimal and subtle that I couldn't readily identify them. Nearly all special effects are practical effects, and (at least for the first part of the movie) I applaud the puppetry mechanics and use of lighting to make the monsters terrifying. And there are several monsters, all which have been uniquely designed to suit character or story moments.
I will admit I have one major gripe about the final monster that appears. Perhaps they were running out of ideas or funds or tricks up their sleeve, but the last one is probably the least-functioning puppet of them all. It's still terrifying, but the least terrifying and least mobile of them. Though it still had some lifelike qualities, there just wasn't enough joint movement for me to believe that this was the scariest moment of the film. While perhaps this is part of the tribute to 1980s horror, it did not satisfy me in the way that all other aspects of this movie did.
On the other hand, it is rare to get a good glimpse of any of the monsters. When looking up photos for this article, I had to stop and debate whether or not the picture was of monsters from The Void, or from other movies with similar effects. The lighting is one of the best aspects of this film. There is mood and atmosphere, and there is troupe, but none of it is used in cheap or cheesy ways. If the lights flicker, it doesn't just happen when the characters notice it and then goes away. That light is actually damaged and will flicker forever even when the threat has passed. This kind of consistent world building is crucial in order to make sure that troupes do not pull the audience out of the movie. And I was not pulled out.
Admittedly, there are certain moments I noticed that made me question what I was seeing. However, my boyfriend who was watching it with me did not notice it. Every once in a while, it seemed that the screen would "blink." It wasn't simply a scene change or a cut, and it wasn't because the lighting was faulty or we were just in a dark corner for a moment. The top and the bottom of the screen ever so slightly closed into blackness for a moment. Usually, these moments are in places that are particularly dark, so it's not noticeable if you're not paying close attention, but I swear the camera blinks. I don't know why this was included, but it added to the disturbing nature of the film. I began to wonder what this blinking could mean, even speculated a more meta scenario where the thing watching these events wasn't an audience but the Void itself. This was an amazing, subtle trick that I had never seen before.
A horror review of mine would not be complete if I didn't identify the "sin" of the film. This is a particularly interesting case here because this is not a typical sin. We are not talking about greed or murder or lust or betrayal or any of the usual suspects. The only way I can describe this sin is by calling it "life." In a way, this is a similar sin to the sin of Alien Covenant, which is "creation," but it's not quite the same. This sin is going to take some explanation, so buckle in.
Lovecraft's creatures are haunting because they are unknowable. These ancient beings have plans and motivations beyond anything we can think of, and most of the time when humans interact with these beings they go insane. Sometimes it is out of understanding, sometimes it is out of frustration, but ultimately the fear that lingers is due to this thread of logic that just might make sense. How would you think a snail feels when a child throws salt on it just to see what happens? Or perhaps that the child does it because they can and likes to watch the snail's agony?
Now turn that on its head: what if the child could stop the snail's death and did it just because they could?
This could also be considered a cruelty. Other films and stories have explored the horrors of living forever or never dying. In some ways, this sin is similar to that ofTorchwood's Miracle Day season, where no one in the entire world is able to die. If you've seen some of the later episodes, you know how deeply disturbing it can get. When someone is shot in the head that person will live out the rest of eternity with that pain. In The Void, if someone has been mutilated and fused with a being from another dimension, they live with that eternally.
In other movies, this is typically seen as "cheating death." After all, our main villain is seeking to bring back someone he lost many years ago and make sure they stay together forever. But there is a reason why I say that the sin is "life." Throughout the movie, there are lots of references to birth, mothering, caretaking, and children. Two of the characters are directly affected by notions of pregnancy and birthing, and Daniel himself struggles to cope with his wife over the stillbirth of their child. Additionally, there is a peculiar scene between the intern nurse, Kim, and the pregnant teen, Maggie. Maggie is about to give birth but there are a lot of complications with it. In order to save the life of Maggie and her baby, Kim is required to attempt a C-section without the correct training or medications to do so. Maggie's grandfather is also there, begging Kim to do it. Ultimately, Kim can't. She can't bring herself to cut Maggie, even if it meant killing Maggie to save the baby.
Strictly speaking, this was probably the best call in a real-life scenario. Without the proper training and tools, and under such high pressure, Kim would have likely killed both Maggie and the baby. On the other hand, this is a movie and the makers can do whatever they like. It's intriguing that Kim is given this choice (to help give life) and yet can't do it. It's only under the eyes of the Void that Maggie is able to give birth. This is one among others, and probably the most subtle handling of the "sin of life" notion.
Ultimately this movie left me with a sense of horror and intrigue. While this is by no means an original story, it takes its genre and its world seriously. There are so many aspects that I could rant on about, but I highly suggest you watch The Void for yourself. The dialogue is well-written, the visual clues and symbols are expertly handled, and the ending was both deeply satisfying and terribly vague. Much like in Lovecraft's tales, there is no such thing as a truly happy ending, but it is perhaps the best outcome of the situation.