I found myself struggling to get this impressions piece done. I somehow have a lot to say about this movie and yet very little. There is so much to process and talk about that I find myself struggling to focus. For a bit of background, The Void was a crowd-funded movie that initially came out in 2016. During 2017 it got a limited theater run and made it’s way to VOD. Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, who directed it, had already gained some fame in the horror world for another film they did that was meant a bit like a love letter to grindhouse movies. The Void takes the same sort of idea only it is for body horror movies of the 80s. It’s also what many would call a Lovecraftian horror film. I went into the movie not knowing much and so unsure what to expect and came out of it entirely in love.
I find myself so struggling with my thoughts because I felt the movie was 50% a horror nerd delight and 50% something unique. On its own, the story follows Deputy Daniel after he finds a man who has just fled the woods. He takes him to a hospital and then finds himself trapped in. No one is sure what is happening, only that one woman in the hospital goes mad and kills a patient while a group of figures in white hoods surrounds the hospital. The group finds themselves locked in as the true horror of what is happening in the hospital is slowly revealed. The man from the start of the movie eventually tells the group about a cult he was part of that sought to triumph over death. The cult has unleashed something horrible on the hospital, and thus the group. This is where the Lovecraftian themes start to come into place. Daniel and the others are faced with something beyond their own world, and the terrifying reality of it. At one point a character claims that what they are facing is “older than God” and clearly something twisted.
As far as being a horror nerd film there is a lot to say. While it’s not filled with specific tropes or references, a lot of this movie feels like it’s honoring great films that came before. There are some obvious ways this happens with body horror and creature features, and some that were more subtle (or I just completely made up). For instance, the way the cult surrounds the hospital and how the group is forced to subsequently deal with them reminded me more of a zombie movie, just minus the actual zombies. A lot of the kills and the use of knives felt like a slasher flick. Again, the body horror and creature feature elements come out in full force with horrific practical effects used for both. Once again, it’s not that there were specific references, rather tone that was thrown in that made me think, “Huh, this reminds me of other movies.”
It’s this tone that really divides a lot of people. Some of those that are most negative about the film say that it doesn’t have it’s own unique look or tone. I disagree with them. While I did feel like I was watching a call back to other films that came before it, it never felt like that’s all there was. Yes, it is a huge part of the movie, but surrounding that was something else that helps the movie to stand on its own as well. It didn’t feel like just a callback, and to write it off as one is something I find frankly unfair.
The movie also has killer practical effects which I appreciate. I am not anti-CGI, but I do feel like we’ve started to rely on it too much. For all the things you could say about this movie (good and bad), it suffers nothing for being a crowd-funded movie and does not feel that way in the least. The monsters are well done, the set is used to it’s fullest, and what non-practical effects are there don’t feel cheap or forced in. From start to finish this movie challenges what being a “low budget” horror film means. The movie also uses lighting excellently. The movie is dark, not so much that it obscures it, but enough that I am sure it helped them get away with not having a grand budget.
It’s also incredibly well acted. I can’t think of a person that delivers a weak performance, or one that you might expect from an indie film. Some shine more than others -notably Aaron Poole as Daniel- but no one is bad. The dialogue suffers a few times with characters awkwardly giving us information that couldn’t be fit in other ways, but it’s forgivable. Horror movies, in general, can suffer from awkward writing, and what this movie does right as far as writing is concerned makes up for the few stumbling blocks pretty well.
The plot can get a little difficult to follow at certain points. Because it’s a movie that is constantly building on what it seems to be, you start to feel like you are struggling to catch up with what exactly is going on. It’s a touch convoluted, but it never feels like you are totally drowning in it. Eventually, things start to come together, and there are enough clues implanted along the way to help you get there. You might feel lost at times, but the movie doesn’t punish you for that.
In the end, I have to say that this movie blew me away. I loved it. It managed to creep me out, scare me, and fascinate me. I feel it’s criminally underrated, and would highly recommend it to pretty much all horror fans. I am still struggling to put my finger on exactly why I liked it so much, however. I go back through and read my thoughts on it, and they just don’t feel like enough. So I will take the cheap way and just say it’s not something can be named, but rather a feeling. As a horror fan, a Lovecraft fan, and a movie fan, in general, I was just pleased the entire time I was watching this film. I’m sad I was so late to see it, and honestly, can’t wait to watch it again.