I have been stalking this movie for months and, when it finally came up for me to watch, I ended up unfortunately getting sidetracked by all the messy details of life. That said, last night I finally had the opportunity to sit down and watch The Void and it was well worth the wait. Now, I want to start out with the downside of this movie. It’s my only complaint really but it’s a biggy in my book. They had too much story for a single film. Usually it’s the other way around as directors and writers struggle to take a 30 minute plot and stretch it into a feature length picture without any form, cohesion or credibility. That wasn’t the case with The Void. If anything, the story is too ambitious for a single 90 minute feature and could easily have started out as part one of a two or even three part series of films. I’d love to see more, to read more because the characters and elements of the story all felt like the culmination of something much larger that is only ever alluded to and never really shown. I’ll try to explain.
Doctor Richard Powell is one of the most respected members of the small community of Marsh County but, after the death of his daughter, did what any grieving parent would do and started looking for answers. Unfortunately for everyone involved, he found those answers within the Abyss. This, boys and girls, is the set up for a classic Lovecraftian tale of ancient gods manipulating men of science and fact into lunatics driven by zeal to achieve some “holy” calling. While you don’t actually come to this realization until the end of the movie, it’s important for the review that we set this up at the beginning. Despite the cast of characters only having a cursory knowledge of one another in most cases, the good doctor has been at work in their individual lives for quite some time.
The story centers on Daniel Carter, a sheriff’s deputy in what is unsurprisingly a small community in the middle of nowhere. His night goes from struggling to stay awake on the graveyard shift to struggling to stay alive as an injured meth addict scrambles out into the woods in front of his cruiser. He races the babbling, injured man to the nearest hospital, the nearly deserted Marsh County Medical where Doctor Powell and a handful of nurses (including Daniel’s estranged wife Allison) are the only staff in attendance. Along with a couple of patients -a young man laid up in a room watching Night of the Living Dead and a pregnant teen with her grandfather for moral support- it seems like an otherwise quiet night for the skeleton crew trying to pack up the remains of the fire scarred building. Of course, that was before nurse Beverly had a psychotic break and decided to carve up her only patient and her own face. In case you were wondering, we’re barely fifteen minutes into the movie and I’ve already skipped over a moment of ominous foreshadowing with characters credited only as The Father and The Son slaughtering their way through a farmhouse full of cult disciples.
While the newly admitted meth-head is being treated and sedated by the good doctor, nurse Beverly is busy slicing away at the unfortunate patient in the other room as well as herself own face. After some vague, creepy banter about not wearing her own face, she ends up with a .40 caliber lobotomy and chaos ensues. As corpses begin to mutate into Cronenberg-esque abominations, a thunderous trumpet echoes across the sky summoning cultists in white robes with a now familiar black triangle over their hooded faces to assemble around the hospital. After the expected posturing and dick measuring of Alpha males in the midst of the crisis, something not quite close to order is restored for a few moments only to fall apart when Allison disappears hunting for medicine for the pregnant and ailing young Maggie. Daniel leads a relatively unenthused group on the most suicidal rescue mission in horror history descending into the far scorched morgue of the dying hospital. Meanwhile, the resurrected and unsurprisingly insane Doctor Powell is already waiting in an autopsy room with Allison getting ready to use her body to further the twisted, godless work he has in mind.
As Daniel, The Father, The Son, and meth man James descend deeper into the depths of the charred basement of the hospital, burned in a mysterious fire prior to the start of the movie, they encounter hallucinations and abominations beyond their wildest nightmares in the form of Powell’s past experiments. As the group begins to separate, each called by their own desires from impending terror at the possibility of death to the agony of lost loved ones taken by the cult and its monstrous gods, the mysteries of The Void persist. Glimpses of Father and Son’s home, the bloodbath that took The Mother and a small child shine through the darkness and force the duo to relive the trauma that started them on the road to the Marsh County Hospital. James, the methed out tweaker looking for an escape is slaughtered by a crab walking abomination while Daniel, regrettably, finds Allison lying on a slab, “mother” to yet another terrible creation. Meanwhile, pregnant teen Maggie goes on her own murder spree and ends up in the morgue ready to give birth to Powell’s “daughter.”
This movie has everything. Everything!
The Lovecraftian story telling, the elements of classic 80’s horror, and practical effects like you wouldn’t believe. There are subtle tributes paid to gore saturated horror films of the past like Hellraiser and The Thing as well as entirely new and creepy creations brought to life by the director and crew. Between the cultists, Powell’s “disciples”, the zombies, and tentacle monsters it’s practically a love letter to the Cthulhu mythos and it’s exactly what fans of cosmic horror have been craving for years. The tangible influences of Cronenberg and Carpenter are alive with every monster and elder god ripping apart sanity to force itself into our reality. As if that weren’t enough, there are some of the most artistically shot scenes I’ve watched in a horror movie in a long time. The one that stands out the most comes as Daniel makes the painful decision to end Allison’s suffering.
The autopsy room is covered in crawling tentacles and mucous drenched limbs erupting from her immobilized body and slowly growing into the wall and floor around her. Steeling himself, he lifts the fire ax in his hands and prepares to swing. The scene cuts to the hallway outside, scorched and black and poorly lit except for the light shining through the frosted glass on the door. You see Daniel’s silhouette as he hefts the ax and brings it down quickly. He repeats the motion again and again as blood sprays onto the glass. The camera slowly pans out, down the corridor and away from the carnage. Instead of that guttural, anguished growl of a man mercy killing the woman he loves or the swish and thunk as the blade cut through whatever alien appendage had become her neck, all we hear is silence followed by the steady drone of an ominous horn blaring. Like a classic horror movie, the terror isn’t in what we see but what is left to our imagination. Imagine Christopher Nolan making horror. That’s The Void from start to finish.
The Void is everything we need in the horror genre right now. Solid writing (even if they do need more time to tell the story they wrote) combined with clever direction, good performances and loads of perfectly executed practical effects instead of the CGI that has become so prevalent. This movie feels like the start of something major, not just for its story but for the genre itself. Something is waking up, something magnificent and insane and absolutely horrifying and if you haven’t watched The Void then you’re going to be totally unprepared for what’s coming.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.