First thing’s first – we’d like to welcome Stephan Deemer to Cultsploitation – he kindly took on a sudden writing assignment as his first appearance on the site. But we’d also like to announce that Stephan will soon be joining the Cultsploitation universe with his own site, Modernsploitation. He’ll be tackling some more… well, modern (as the title suggests) cult films. And what better way to start off than with a very modern cult film that fits nicely into Lovecraftian mythos, The Void!
I first saw The Void at an arthouse theater in Orange County, California, having had no idea what I was getting into. I vaguely remembered seeing the Indiegogo campaign for the film a year or two prior but decided not to give money as I had been burned a few times in the past. Fool me once, that whole deal. I also knew of the directing team, but had not gotten a chance to check out their features. So I went in unknowing, without even a trailer under my belt. What unfolded was a Lovecraftian horror epic the likes we haven’t seen since Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy. I was glued to my chair, sure that if I turned around that some tentacled creature would be waiting for me. The Void was also one of the first films to usher in our current 80s fascination, premiering just months before the first season of Stranger Things and Black Mirror‘s “San Junípero.” In one fell swoop, The Void managed to transport the theater I was in to the 80s, with a picture that’s equal parts Hellraiser and The Thing.
The film begins as many great horror films do: with a young couple running through the woods. I’d just like to say, that’s how you get an old-school horror fan in from frame one. The girl doesn’t make it, but the young man is able to make it to a road, where he collapses. Unfortunately for him, local sheriff Daniel Carter finds him and takes him to the hospital. Unfortunate because soon the young man and Daniel, as well as the other hospital workers and patients, are trapped inside the hospital. Outside the hospital: creepy cult figures in what appear to be rubber robes. I only point that out because I’ve never seen cult folk in rubber (weird sentence, I know). Even worse, however, is what’s inside the hospital. Soon, the halls are filled with the blood of humans devoured by alien creatures. I’ll stop there, as any more might spoil a bonkers third act.
In case you didn’t know, The Void was created, written, and directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie. If you’re a horror fan (which let’s face it, you probably are), those names might sound familiar to you. They’re behind the fantastic horror-comedy films The Editor and Father’s Day, which I picked up after seeing The Void. However, if you’re going into The Void expecting something in line with the duo’s previous work, you’ll likely be disappointed. The central tone of The Void is stomach-churning dread, not comedy. On the one hand, you don’t want our group of heroes to leave the hospital, because killer cultists are waiting for them outside. On the other hand, you definitely don’t want them to stay in the hospital, because there is no doubt something horrible will happen within its walls. Kostanski and Gillespie do a fantastic job of creating levels of fear and apprehension akin to Carpenter’s The Thing.
But the tone is not all the team is able to accomplish. The creatures and special effects of The Void are really what makes it stand out. This is a creature feature of the highest order. These monsters are almost entirely practical and are showcased in full detail. Unlike most current horror films that hide their creatures under flashing lights, handheld camera work, or layers of somehow-still-terrible CGI, The Void displays their abominations proudly. You see them in their full bloody, tentacled glory. Thankfully, the reliance on practical effects does not end with the creatures. The drive-in levels of gore are both horrifying and gorgeous. The best part of all? It’s got a killer, synthy soundtrack to match. The Void is a film that proudly wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and there’s no shame in that.
To be honest, the parts of The Void that don’t work are mostly forgivable. Are the performances rather one note? Sure. The story too is rather simple. There aren’t many B-plots, and the characters’ goal is clear: beat the monsters, get home safe. However, if the strongest criticisms you can give to an independent horror film are that no one’s taking home an Oscar and its a story is a bit small, that’s a win. As I said before, this is a primarily a creature feature and, on that front, the film slays.
Some have a problem with the ending, but I love it. It merely ends, with little explanation, like all great Lovecraftian horror. They can’t explain the conclusion, because we, simple humans, cannot fathom the cosmic inconsequentially of these events. They are but a drop in the bucket. Furthermore, we cannot begin to understand creatures so alien. All we know is that our heroes have only thwarted these terrors for a moment, but they will return.
As for the Blu-ray, no qualms whatsoever. The creatures standout in this pristine format and any screenshot from the film could be posted to a wall as art. Although I will admit, the film is really, really dark. Even with the Blu-ray, I had to wait until the darkness of night set in to watch. The sound is quite loud and atmospheric, so turn it up and get sucked into the cosmic horror of it all! While I would have liked a few more bonus features, as I’m a bonus features nut, I can live with what we got.
Straight Lovecraftian horror can be quite a challenge to achieve on film. Cosmic horror requires constant dread from frame one, and filmgoers always find something to distract them, breaking the tension. It’s not just a modern problem either! In the old days, necking with someone in the back of your car at the drive-in was just as distracting as looking down at your phone. That’s what makes The Void such a killer little movie. It manages to grab you from the beginning, and not let go. Admittedly, there are confusing moments in the film that detract from its own dread. However, these moments are brief. They pass quickly, and soon the screen is once again filled with the terrors of beyond. And we get to see these horrors in the flesh, covered in Carrie levels of gore. For once, these nightmarish creatures are not obscured by lousy found-footage camera work or poor CGI. The Void, like the very horrors it showcases, seeps off the screen and into your subconscious. If that’s not the hallmark of great Lovecraftian horror, I don’t know what is.
- Nightmare Logic: The Making of The Void (This includes the 90 second proof-of-concept trailer, which I highly recommend checking out. It’s impressive how much feeling they were able to jam into 90 seconds)
- Directors’ Commentary
- Visual Effects Commentary
- Teaser and Theatrical Trailers