The Void (2016) — Lovecraftian pyramid cult invades a hospital

“There are things older than time and they have blessed me.”

ZombieDog’s rating: True horror movie experience to watch after dark with tw- to-four people.

ZombieDog’s review: Defining a cult movie is not an easy task — it’s even come up multiple times in reviews on this very website. The real problem is that the definition has fundamentally changed since its inception. It used to describe counterculture movies or midnight flicks. These were distinct groups of films that had unique subject matter which could be defined. In general, it was sexually oriented, bizarre, or outside the mainstream. The description on our own site is “a movie which develops a passionate following.” The problem with that though is it seems that it could describe virtually any movie. If all movies can be cult movies, then none are.

I’m going to sidestep this for a moment, mostly because coming up with a solid definition may be impossible. So, I think the best thing for my purposes would be to come up with my own definition. This does not mean that I am the arbiter of truth and the sayer of cult movies. What it means is that what I am going to do is offer films I think should be nominated for cult status. I think a cult movie is an actual thing — a describable, quantifiable movie experience. The problem with this is some of the descriptions overlap with other films and thus the confusion. The Little Mermaid has a devoted following, but I would not call it a cult film. Unless you’re watching it at burning man on an excessive amount of party favors dressed as a lobster under the sea along with 300 other people who are trying to determine if this is real or not.

Something that is “real” is that whether or not there is a functional definition of cult movies they are still being produced. Two-thousand sixteen was a good year for the ’80s. Not only did we get Stranger Things on Netflix, but a creepy horror film done in the ’80s style called The Void. This is a straightforward Lovecraftian storyline which doesn’t spoon-feed us the concept up front; the viewer is on the journey the same as the characters in the movie.

What makes this approach even more effective is that all the characters are well-seasoned background and supporting actors. Most well-known among them are Ellen Wong from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Kenneth Welsh (one of those actors you may not know by name yet definitely know by face). His IMDB entry is so long I struggled to pick out a singular project to name him for. The rest of the cast, while not as accomplished as Mr. Walsh, are perfectly matched in talent.

The Void starts off with two men hunting down a couple as they’re running away from a house. One of the men shoots at a woman and she falls to the ground. The young man that was with her runs into the woods as the pair of hunters light the woman on fire. It is a brutal opening and we’re not exactly certain what’s going on. The man who escaped stumbles out of the forest and falls on to a nearby road where he is spotted by a police officer. The police officer believes that he is either drunk or on drugs and because he is barely conscious, he decides to take him to the hospital.

The hospital, the centerpiece of the film, is in the process of closing down due to fire damage. There is a skeleton staff present, the hospital is barely functional, and boxes pack the halls for the upcoming move. All appears normal except for emergency room patients seeking treatment for varying serious conditions.

I’m going to say as little as I can about the movie because I believe going in without preconcepts makes this a better movie experience. I will say this though: The first monster shows up at the fifteen-minute mark, followed by an otherworldly horn, cult members, and the dead who don’t stay dead.

There’s no doubt I am a biased observer here. I lived through the ’80s and I think it was a wonderful period of moviemaking. I think the ’70s was the best, mind you, but the ’80s was a powerful decade. Cable TV was just coming into its own, and it was a new venue for film that wasn’t available before. The equipment to make film and the ability to do so was becoming more accessible. Directors like Roger Corman took advantage of this new outlet to produce over 100 movies in the ’80s alone. Many of these were B-movie classics although some were internationally acclaimed, such as Fitzcarraldo (1982). In terms of raw creativity and original ideas, I think the ’80s would be difficult to beat.

So why are people calling The Void an ’80s-style film? If I had to pick a singular answer, it would be monster design. All the monsters are physical props which have a tangible feeling of weight and presence. There is some CGI in the movie, however it is used sparingly and for effect. While I think the creatures are strong ’80s representatives, there are other aspects of the film which mimic horror films from the ’80s. The storyline, the setting, the dialog from the actors, and even the conclusion feels like it came from this decade.

As silly as this is going to sound, the true beauty of The Void is that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not setting up a sequel, it’s not trying to gross us out, it’s just offering a creepy horror experience.

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