The Void: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat
That title: totally not a Behemoth reference. At least not directly. SOMETHING colossal and otherworldly awaits you in The Void, if you dare follow it.
If you’re an indie horror film fan who paid even the slightest attention to the blogosphere over the last few weeks, you’ve probably read a few other reviews that already sang the praise for The Void (in a cacophony of cultist chanting no doubt). The most-highly praising ones tend to come from Horror Blogs that absolutely ‘get’ what Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie were going for. On that particular note, you’re not going to find this particular review any different. You may have even read a few non-horror-specific blogs’ reviews that just didn’t get it, and granted low scores that attest more to their own lack of investment being that they’re not the target audience.
This definitely isn’t one of those reviews.
In either case those other reviews dutifully noted the cinematographic, thematic, and narrative similarities between The Void and 80’s Cosmic and earth-bound Horror precursors like works of John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Prince of Darkness and The Thing) and of Lucio Fulci (The Beyond and House By The Cemetery in particular) and with body-horrors of David Cronenberg (though no short list here would do his influence justice).
If you’re already sold just based on those names and titles, great. You’re exactly where I was the day I first heard of the film’s production. If you need more persuasion, though, read on for more thorough discussion of those influences.
You’ve probably seen some of the Carpenter influence already if, instead of going into the film blind, you watched one or more of the varying length trailers. They evoke Assault on Precinct 13, frequently, corresponding to the early scenes of the soon-to-be-abandoned Hospital besieged by a silent but gathering external threat (which doubles as a reference to Carpenter’s Halloween, as each cloaked cultist is a silent blade-wielding menace).
The key difference, though: they’re not so much trying to get in as keep everyone from getting out, a fact not lost on the trapped cast. Though it’s well past halfway through the film before it’s articulated out loud by anyone: explanatory dialogue is generally sparse except when from the primary antagonist. The Void has very little unnecessary exposition, and honestly when you’re dealing with a film with mysterious cultists at the gates and unspeakable horrors stalking the halls, the less of a regular info-dump there is the better. Trying to explain that which is pretty much supposed to feel inexplicable might drag you right out of the willing suspension of disbelief. And then what?
Plot homages to Carpenter’s The Thing become evident right after the appearance of the first Void creature (also seen in the trailer). Here, The Void evokes Cronenberg’s version of The Fly, as well, in its practical design of the horrors stalking the hospital rooms and halls. There’s a more obvious thematic parallel to earlier works of Cronenberg, though, if not an especially as visually evocative one as to the previously noted Fly: his contributions to the body-horror canon through medical monstrosities, both of spontaneous mutation (Rabid) and of psychological deviance leading to mutilation (Dead Ringers). Exploring exactly how referential these works are, though, could lead to a big spoiler. So, too, would explaining too much of the influence that works of Lucio Fulci had on The Void, except to point to tropes that it and Fulci’s City of the Living Dead & The Beyond have in common with the wider Lovecraftian variety of cosmic horrors. I honestly wonder how long it will take before its own The Book of the Void (so named in promotional materials) winds up being referenced in some young Lovecraftian author’s list of Eldritch Tomes alongside the Liber Ivonis, Culte des Goules, De Vermis Mysteriis or Necronomicon.
That’s not the last clear film reference, but the very last deserves to be discovered without risking any obvious spoilers of the climax and film’s conclusion.
Qualitatively, The Void stands right alongside all of its influences rather than on their shoulders – it’s as good as the sum of its parts but to be brutally frank not much more. Your mileage on the film and potential for repeat viewings will depend almost exactly on how much of a fan you are of the films it directly or indirectly recalls: I most definitely am a fan of the lot, so that should explain to you the high score below (feel free to disagree though). It certainly helps a lot that the multiple styles of horror film – siege, body, cosmic – are quite seamlessly interwoven and contribute to one another organically. And being something of a patchwork of its influences is probably the most ‘meta’ recommendation The Void could possibly get. It works because it is many things at once, no part of which is designed to hold your hand and explain itself in relation to the wider narrative. Whatever the loose ends there are will be tied together by your own imagination. Ultimately, I think, you get from The Void what you put into it. No more, no less.
Hopefully there will be a non-UK Blu Ray in the not-too-far future. I for one expect plenty of repeat late-night viewings. The Void met and exceeded my expectations, and confirmed yet again why I think it’s so important to support independent films through their crowdfunding campaigns; whether pre-production, in production or post-production.
Also, if you happen to be somewhere The Void is playing on its Midnight Movie style circuit of limited engagements (literally one night only each), I can’t recommend enough that you go.