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31 Days of Halloween: The Void

Published Friday, October 08, 2021 at 11:59pm

This was not my first dance with The Void, which is one of those movies that I'm supposed to like but don't, particularly.

The Void's principal budget came from a production company, but its special effects were crowdfunded which, I think, is how I became aware of it. It was released in 2017 and I can't remember when I first saw it, other than it was within a year or so of its VOD release. The production is Canadian which is stated on Wikipedia, but I figured it out on my own because like, half the cast is recognizable from either Slings and Arrows or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

So, The Void begins at night. The door of a farmhouse flies open, and a young couple run out. She is shot in the back, but he escapes. The assailants douse her in gasoline and set her body on fire, and the man is picked up along the road by Deputy Sheriff Daniel Carter, who takes him to the nearest hospital which is operating with a skeleton crew.

Carter's estranged wife Allison is on duty, along with Dr. Richard Powell, another nurse, and an intern. A couple of patients are sitting in the waiting room, including Maggie, a pregnant teen. While he's waiting, he happens to pass a room where the other nurse is in the process of murdering another patient. She turns to Carter, skin hanging from her face, and he shoots her dead.

Things spiral quickly out of control from here. A state trooper shows up to collect James (the man Carter had brought in earlier), followed by Vincent and Simon, the two assailants from the farmhouse, who hold everybody hostage until the nurse's body mutates into a tentacle monster which kills the trooper. Jason stabs Dr. Powell, and the hospital is surrounded by cultists in white robes with black triangles over their faces. We learn that Vincent lost his daughter to this cultists, and that he's deputized his son-in-law Simon to wipe them out. James professes his innocence and swears that Dr. Powell is the ringleader, an assertion backed up by a stack of Polaroids depicting cultists and vivisections found in Powell's office.

Anyway, things end up in the basement with the flayed and resurrected Dr. Powell delivering his child from the teenager's womb, and monologuing that he has conquered death. There's a lot of blood and guts, the special effects are impressive given the apparent cheapness of the film, and it ends in an alternate dimension in front of a black pyramid.

I use Plex to organize and stream my media collection, and when you're choosing a movie the interface prominently displays a selection of review snippets from Rotten Tomatoes. Professional critics split into two camps on The Void; those who loved it invariably talk about the visuals and compare it to the splatterfests of the '80s, and those who disliked it all say that the plot is difficult to follow. Both camps are right; the movie looks great, and the crowdfunded practical effects are a huge part of that. But it's all in the service of an incredibly messy story.

One possible reason for the half-baked plot, I guess, is that the filmmakers were trying to do a Lovecraftian film. H.P. Lovecraft would never have written The Void, but it's built out of all the modern tropes of the genre he kickstarted. My problem with it is that I don't think it's effective as cosmic horror. The main hallmark of cosmic horror is that the fear is generated by the strangeness and indifference of a universe that we don't understand. That's not the same as throwing a bunch of crazy images at the wall to see what sticks; The Void is weird, all right, but I wish there was more connective tissue holding it together.

It's really too bad, since the visuals are such a triumph. But a 90-minute movie that moves at breakneck speed with wall-to-wall special effects shouldn't have me checking my watch so often, and seeing as I've now had that same experience twice, I have to conclude that it's just a bad movie.

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