The Void (2017): Movie Review

The Void (2017): Movie Review

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The Void

The Void (2017)

Directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie

Rated NR

Reviewed by James Rosario on April 6, 2017

I was hoping that this would be the one.

As a longtime fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I, and many like me, have been waiting many long dark aeons for a worthy screen adaptation of the horror author’s work--or at the very least, a truly great “Lovecraftian” film inspired by his work. All the elder signs pointed to The Void as being the one we had been waiting for. It certainly is Lovecraftian, don’t get me wrong, but it is not truly great. It has a lot going for it, but I fear that those not familiar with the long dead author’s work may find themselves a bit lost.

Disciples of the bygone days of 80s horror will find much to rave about, and with good reason. The use of practical effects over CGI was a wise choice. The comparisons to The Thing (1982) and Hellraiser (1987), among others, are obvious and, I’m sure, very welcomed by the filmmakers (directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie). The creatures created for the film are truly creepy and gross (lots of tentacles, sinew, and ooze). This stuff is straight out of the 80s, and would have been right at home next to Wilford Brimley and Kurt Russell. I wish more filmmakers would head back in this direction.

The other positive is that it does have a lot of Lovecraft in it. Mad doctors, faceless cultists, forbidden symbols, and sanity blasting visions of cosmic hellscapes all help feed the flame for me. If you’re familiar with the author, these elements, and more, are even more exciting than the creatures. We’re treated to a bigger dose of cosmic horror than we’ve seen in many years (if ever), and I should be more excited about that than I am. Maybe I’m being greedy (Come on guys, would it have killed you to throw in some non-Euclidean geometry?).

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In a sense, I fear that the Lovecraftian elements may hurt the overall enjoyment for the uninitiated. Lovecraft had a definable formula to many of his stories, and the unfamiliar may have trouble sorting things out. For example, when Daniel (Aaron Poole) is knocked out and sees visions of dark clouds and barren landscapes, I know that he’s seeing an alien world ruled by indifferent god-like creatures who would sooner devour humanity than sneeze, and that these visions were most likely planted in his head at the behest of an Earthly follower of these Gods. A madman who is attempting to harness their power. This may seem a bit convoluted (it is), but for me, and other fans of Lovecraft’s work, this is an easy leap, and one we’re more than happy to take. We’re more than familiar with the tropes of these kinds of stories. This is old hat, and we’d love to see a whole lot more of it. I’m glad the directors chose not to tie everything up into a neat little package for the viewers, they are under no obligation to do so, but many newcomers to this kind of horror will undoubtedly have trouble with the grammar of it all.

There are a ton of Lovecraftian elements for nerds like me to eat up. The Void is better than most in that regard, but that alone doesn’t make it a completely effective horror movie. I can't help but wonder what something like this would have been like in the hands of another huge Lovecraft fan like Guillermo del Toro (that's not fair to the filmmakers, but still). Horror films often have the same shortcomings, one of them being the lack of character development. The Void is no different. I found myself much more interested in the creepy robed cultists than the main cast (how did they come to be? What is the level of their dedication? Who made their creepy robes?). The acting wasn’t bad, per se, there just wasn’t a whole lot for the characters to do other than react adequately to the next round of weirdness that was thrust upon them. I guess what I’m after is more depth. I want to have a reason to root for the good guys other than that I’m simply expected to.

I do recommend The Void, however, even though it’s not exactly what I was hoping for. It is a start though, and I hope it does well. Horror fans and less discerning Lovecraft fans will love it, I’m sure, and that’s just fine. My hope is that this is the start of something. I hope we start seeing more of this type of film, just maybe a little better. With luck, someday we’ll finally get that truly great Lovecraft film us nerds have been waiting so patiently for.  Because, as we all know, 

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange aeons even death may die.

I’m looking at you Guillermo del Toro.

P.S. I’d like to thank my friend, Dan Nygard, for turning me into the Lovecraft nerd I am today. You opened my eyes to the Cosmic Dread!

The Void opens Friday April 7, 2017 at Grail Moviehouse.

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