This movie will totally prey on your irrational fear of triangles.
The Void is a movie where it is best to go in without knowing too much. However, to make sure the right people see this I will say up front that if you like cosmic horror (Lovecraft and/or Stephen King) and John Carpenter’s horror classic The Thing you are primed to love this. It was made for you.
Beyond its horror pedigree and fairly game achievement of its ambitions, it is interesting to note that The Void is a partially cowdfunded film. That’s pretty cool to think about since not only are practical-effects driven movies like this one fairly rare nowadays, crowdfunding proves there’s both an appetite for them and the potential for more to be made.
Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski wrote and directed the hell out of this film. It has a fairly simple, straightforward premise that unfolds into truly eerie territory. One of the best things about it is that it gets at ya fast and often, spending only the minimal time on set up before getting into the good stuff. If you’re tired of horror movies that wait too long to show some monsters or tip the hand of weird shit going on, you’ll like the way this one is structured.
THERE ARE SPOILERS… IN THE VOID.
The setup feels like the beginning of a great Stephen King short story.
The film opens with a brilliant fakeout. We watch as a couple is chased out of a home and into the night by a pair of assailants. One is executed and the other escapes, and you’re invited to think that the attackers are a couple of evil dudes who are going to kick off whatever hijinx this movie is going to get up to. When the escaped “victim”, James (Evan Stern) runs across local cop Carter (Aaron Poole), he is taken to a hospital late at night where a diminished staff is trying to take care of a few local patients. The hospital has recently suffered a bunch of fire damage and only a small wing is still open.
Once Carter gets James there, the weird shit quickly begins. Triangle-faced cultists surround the hospital so that no one can leave, people start to lose their shit and attack each other, and the two guys from the fake-out opening show up and complicate things… just as one of the nurses turns into a truly disgusting and fucked up monster. Think The Thing or James Gunn’s Slither.
These guys are super scary and very well used throughout the film.
Most of the movie is about trying to survive this hospital of horrors. Most of the characters are thinly sketched, which might be a weakness in the film, but there’s also some meat in there too. The script takes a shot at creating some ambiguity and nuance through Carter’s relationship with his (ex? estranged?) wife, Allison (Kathleen Munroe). They have strained relationship where they clearly still care about each other, but a tragedy in their past colors their interactions and gently builds up toward their ultimate fates.
While Carter tries to both wrap his head around what’s going on and keep everyone alive, he is afflicted with apocalyptic visions and moments of vertigo or hallucination. This starts to affect others as well until Allison is taken and forces Carter and friends to directly confront the horrors lurking in the burnt out hospital. The Triangle Cult is hiding all kinds of evil shit down there, including Cronenbergs and evil labs and flickering mood lighting.
Carter is kind of a great character in a way.
One of the things I like about Carter is that he feels like a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s genre heroes. Characters like John McClane or Roy Scheider in Jaws or Ed Harris in The Abyss are not walking off the overs of GQ and seem kind of ordinary, scrubby, and not all that heroic or inspiring… at first. Carter is implied to be a bit of a fuckup, but he has courage where it counts and it’s satisfying to watch him find it even though it is framed by one of the film’s only real narrative issues (more on this later).
Though they stick around til the end, the two killers from the beginning of the movie (who turn out to be hunting the Triangle Cult to avenge their loved ones) don’t get as much depth as Carter. The mute Son (Mik Byskov) always seems more willing to help than the aggressive Father (Daniel Fathers), but it’s the latter who gets the closest thing to an arc. Beyond them, the only character with an arc is junior nurse Kim (Ellen Wong) who is kind of a stock millennial character until she starts having to directly confront what’s happening.
Shit gets icky.
That narrative issue I mentioned earlier is the treatment of Allison. All of the characters in the film are fairly well acted, with people like Ellen Wong and Daniel Fathers able to imbue their characters with shades of depth through sheer performance. One of the things the movie does well is evoke Stephen King’s theme of regular people finding their courage and using it to overcome extraordinary circumstances. Allison and Carter are both brave and both face what’s happening in their own ways. However, Allison is taken and fridged and then becomes relegated to the usual horror trope of “woman character = capacity for childbirth”. This is not to say that there isn’t thematic or narrative justification, because there is. To talk about that, though, will require getting into the motivations of the film’s central villain, Dr. Powell (Kenneth Walsh).
Powell is doing all this to bring his dead daughter back. Over the course of the film, he both dies and comes back to life and taunts Carter with his seemingly rational perspective on the horrors that are happening. He started the “triangle cult” in his search for immortality and power over death. But his motivation is actually incredibly understandable and human, especially in light of the inhumanity he creates in pursuit of it. This is really good stuff, because usually villains in these kinds of movies are seeking power or enlightenment for their own sake. It also ties into Carter and Allison’s character arcs, where both salvation for a loved one and the connection between parents and children are relevant to everything that is happening. Carter and Allison’s loss makes sense as a vehicle through which Powell will bring his own child back, and there’s a narrative sense in Allison being this pregnancy vessel, cliche though it may be.
Powell was getting up to just no good.
The problem is that it’s all kind of cheap, especially if you’re not as generous as I am about the parent/child/loss subtext as I am. I think it’s a case of interesting intentions that aren’t necessarily well executed, due to relying on a somewhat dehumanizing trope and not doing a lot to rehabilitate it until the very end. In other words, there’s a lot of ways the filmmakers could have complicated their own device with Allison and kept her as a character, rather than pushing her aside to just provide motivation, horror, and ick factor. It seems like they kind of got that, too, because they partially salvage it in the film’s ending shot which includes Allison, standing with Carter in the Void, facing down whatever cosmic horrors lurk there. It’s a good way to end the film.
The Void is robust and satisfying all the way through, but I can see some people getting turned off by its copious gore and ambiguous cosmic horror elements. Personally, I don’t mind either of these things (ambiguity seems to be part and parcel with cosmic horror) and I loved this movie even if I cringed a little over Allison.