The Void (2016)

I have never been comfortable in hospitals. I think that is a pretty common attitude to have and I would hazard a guess that I am not alone there. Part of my problem with hospitals comes from uncertainty. A lot of the time when you go to a hospital, a person’s fate is uncertain. Even with the best medicine, an injury or sickness is not always cured perfectly and even if it is it will ruin a person’s quality of life for some time. The thoughts that ring through my head are ‘what’s wrong with me?’ and ‘what will happen to me?’. Funnily enough, the other thing that scares me about hospitals is certainty. There have been many times when I have gone into a hospital knowing what I am in for. I have had the procedures explained to me ahead of time so now I know what is coming. Not much in a hospital is painless and most of it scares me. I am afraid of needles and surgery especially and I always have been. I get anxious as the date approaches and when it comes to the waiting room, I feel absolutely helpless and my skin crawls. I think far too much about what is about to happen and it drives me a bit crazy. However, I have gotten better at countering both fears over the years but I will probably always have them.

Cults and the horror genre have long been wedded together. The absolute devotion to a crazy idea is a frightening concept to most people. Cults often start from a positive place or with a positive idea that lures people in so that they can be controlled by a charismatic figure. For example, the Peoples Temple was started by Jim Jones to work to fix the issues of civil rights and mental health. It was based on communism and was established to escape the persecution of communists in the United States. He then cooked up false faith healing and started his ascent to a full-on crazy cult leader. Heaven’s Gate believed that they would be taken from Earth by aliens hiding behind a comet. In horror, cults are often in service to something demonic or something eldritch but always evil. (SPOILERS) The Satanic cult in Rosemary’s Baby wants to make sure the son of Satan is born. The cult in Silent Hill murder and torture people in service to a Sun God who grants them dark magic to help serve it. These cults are maniacal and vicious and unwavering in their faith. They are the dangerous place that all religion in the world can go if people are not careful and many cults are formed from some sort of organized religion.

Very early on, this movie takes on a very Lovecraftian feel (without the racism) and that is never a bad thing in a horror movie. That kind of horror is very existential and usually includes a lot of horror based on sanity and on body horror, two of the things that frighten me the most. The movie is specifically inspired by Lovecraft by way of Guillermo del Toro and his comments on his ill-fated Mountains of Madness adaptation. The movie is just crazy from the first scene until the last but it paces it really well. I have said it a million times but the pacing is so vital in a good horror movie and this movie has such a good rhythm. The movie kind of cycles between good ensemble acting, crazy stuff, and then weird interstitials. The ensemble is great, full of actual characters you would find in a hospital. I got the same feel from the characters as I got from movies like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. These are all just regular people who happened to be in the same place when horrible things start to happen.

The effects are definitely top notch especially for a movie that was crowdfunded. There is no CGI work (not that there is anything wrong with CGI) and everything is practical. People and things bleed buckets and it looks absolutely fantastic but also horrifying. We get to see gross, eldritch beings with very creative designs. It is really hard as more and more horror movies are made to keep things fresh and innovative but this movie definitely achieves it. Each scene managed to surprise me in the best ways as I was left really not knowing what was going to happen next. This was coupled with the absolutely beautiful set and production design of the movie. As I said earlier, hospitals are inherently creepy but they made it even better with some of the best horror lighting that I have seen. They did a lot with using normal ambient lighting in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to hide or bring out certain details. It is definitely a master class on how to design a horror set.

Overall, I loved this movie although it really messed me up. As I have said before, body horror really disturbs me and there was plenty of it here. The movie also leaves a lot up to the viewer’s imagination, not spelling things out so that I could connect the dots with my imagination. That kind of story is really fun for me because I love making up horrible stories behind the story. In a movie with sanity slippage and body horror, that gets very interesting.

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