The Void (2016)

*. They wanted to make a horror movie that would take everything and throw it at the wall, to see not only what would stick but what would create the most interesting splatter patterns.
*. So, there’s a devil-worshipping cult. A mad doctor. A siege. Lots of people running around with axes. Knife-wielding psychos in hoods. A shape-shifting creature. Monsters bursting out of people’s guts. Tentacles. A portal to hell located in the basement . . .
*. In other words, The Void is a kind of horror-film compendium filmed in what Kim Newman described as the directors’ “pastiche mode.” There are a lot of borrowings, some of them quite direct. Despite all of this, however, the writing-directing team of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski have little to say about their inspirations on the DVD commentary track.
*. This is a point I talked about a bit in my notes on Black Mountain Side, how so many commentaries remain silent on even the most obvious influences. Here the filmmakers do mention Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness once in passing, though I thought the borrowings from that film (especially the climax) might have called for them to say a bit more.

*. Instead, the question of influence is rejected. Despite what are direct quotes the directors say they are “not referencing anything specifically.” While they admit to liking various classic horror films from the ’80s they hadn’t intended any kind of throwback or homage. I found this weird, almost protesting too much. Why not just say that they got the shot of the two characters falling together into the portal from the end of Prince of Darkness? And since the most pervasive spirit here is that of Fulci, and the final shot is another direct quote from the end of The Beyond, why not acknowledge this? Instead they say it is “not a reference to The Beyond,” nor “meant to specifically evoke anything from The Beyond.” Really? Not even on a subconscious level?
*. I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with filmmakers taking inspiration from other movies. In fact, it’s inevitable, especially when working within a genre like horror. So I don’t know why so many of today’s directors seem so intent on staying silent or even rejecting the imputation of influence. But this is just a digression on a commentary so I’ll drop it.
*. As for the movie, I thought it was mostly fun, albeit without much of a sense of humour. I expected a few laughs given the chaos of the proceedings. And while Aaron Poole is a decent actor, let’s face it, he doesn’t look at all like a cop. He looks like he belongs in a comedy. Couldn’t they have at least asked him to shave?

*. The main monster is another one of those melted-plastic agglomerations we’ve seen so many of since Carpenter’s The Thing. I wonder if The Thing is where they really got there start though. Since The Thing the look has been repeated many times, right away in Leviathan and all the way up to Splinter and this movie. But was The Thing the first movie to feature a monster that looked like this?
*. I did like the monster, all the more for its being done mainly with practical effects. The creature at the end also scores the movie’s only good kill when it stomps on the head of a fallen disciple and crushes it like a grape. Aside from the monsters, however, there wasn’t much that was thrilling or new. Or scary, which is a bigger problem.
*. The story is a string to hang the different effects on, which is something else that connects it to Fulci. I’m not sure if it made any sense, and all the different horror tropes I began by listing feel only loosely stitched together. The disciples don’t appear to have much of a function, for example. And there’s a Father and Son team that are never explained. For some reason a woman holding a baby follows these two around and I think I missed what she was supposed to represent.
*. The film was shot in Sault Ste. Marie, which the directors found eerily decayed (“you can’t fake that kind of decay”) and forbidding: “something about the atmosphere of that place felt very, very scary.” Really? I’ve been there and just thought it was depressing. But that was a while ago.
*. Well, even if they said they didn’t want to make a throwback horror movie I think this one will appeal mostly to fans of those films. The design elements and photography are both good and help it look like it cost a lot more than its crowdfunded microbudget. Still, it struck me in the end as too many ideas and too many monsters chasing a plot. That in itself wouldn’t be a bad thing, necessarily, but given the direction they were taking I think Gillespie and Kostanski needed a few more really scary scenes or else a few more jokes.

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