The Void is a good movie, I liked it. I feel like it’s important to lead with that kind of positivity, because I really did enjoy it but I think a lot of people are going to be put off by my next statement that while a good movie, it’s not actually original but completely derivative.
The Void starts out with a bang, with cultists, people attacked, bodies on fire. They definitely want you to know exactly what kind of movie you’re walking into. We spend The bulk of the film at an urgent care emergency room (that is about to get shutdown) leaving us with only a skeleton crew; a doctor and a couple of nurses, and an intern. There are also a couple of patients – one of which is a pregnant teenager accompanied by her grandfather. Our main character, a bland, non-descript cop, bursts in with a suspect in tow and shortly thereafter the mayhem begins. When a couple of mysterious strangers appear, and the hospital is surrounded by cultists in white robes, the movie begins in earnest. After the first atrocity appears, it begs the question “Are the cultists trying to get into the hospital or are they trying to keep the people there from getting out? ”
The biggest problem with the void is some sloppy writing in places… Too often, I felt like I needed to know more, like I was expected to understand things that hadn’t yet been explained…
“Okay, so they’re husband and wife? I thought that might be the case but wasn’t sure. Are they estranged or just having problems?”
“I see, he’s the kids father… That makes sense, but it would help if I knew that half an hour ago”
Stuff like that leads to confusion and pushes you out of the story. I can usually figure it out and get myself back on track but it seems like more work and I should have to do in a film like this…
We also really need better characterization – the characters are all stereotypical cardboard cutouts. The strong nurse, the dutiful cop, wise old doctor, the teen mother, and the slacker (and slightly morbid?) millennial intern. There just isn’t any more depth to these characters than that. They aren’t developed at all… I’d like to know more about the teenager, do we think somebody else is the father? Is there a mystery about it or regret? When we discover the identity of the child’s father near the end of the third act, it feels almost tacked on as an afterthought… It ties things up in a tidy little bow, but doesn’t feel like it was planned. The story didn’t lead us there. I’d like to know more about the father-son relationship, I’d like to know more about the sheriffs secrets, all of those kind of things could’ve developed these characters. I’d have liked to connect to these people a great deal more instead of them just being fodder for the monster chase. These characters alone can’t carry The film without the added attraction of blood and gore…
Fortunately for us, there are buckets of blood and piles of gore spread generously throughout this film. These filmmakers are obviously heavily influenced by David Cronenberg and practical effects showcases like Rob Bottin’s work on The Thing. It’s evident in the trailer as well, and it’s the sort of film remind you just how effective practical work is. There’s a weight and sheen there that computer FX just don’t quite match in visceral terror. Where CGI is used in this film, it’s appropriate – enhancing what was already on the screen, and taking us places that practical can’t quite reach…
Part of me really wants to watch this over again, in a well lit room with a pad and pencil in one hand and my copy of the Psychotronic Encyclopedia in the other to keep score with. The homages come fast and furious… You may remember a few years back when somebody took Quinton Tarantino’s work and paired it up side-by-side with the films that they claimed he had ripped off… This is very much a similar situation, where the filmmakers have taken the best elements and scenes from their favorite horror films and woven them together into a brilliant yet derivative patchwork of classic horror’s greatest hits.
There are definite callbacks and homage to Reanimator in our main villain. The discovery of the mysterious staircase that wasn’t there before, leading deep into the bowels of the subbasement and beyond – I could swear I’m watching Michele Soavi‘s The Church. There are moments where blue strobes give me an Aliens feel. The framing of the scene when the monstrosity’s leg comes down is pulled straight from Cronenberg’s The Fly. The victim racing down the closing hallway with the monster hot on his heels is absolutely pulled from Hellraiser. The discovery of the failed experiments that come to life and come after you reminded me a great deal of Dr Satan’s lair in House of 1000 Corpses (though it’s more likely they were homaging what ever Rob Zombie was pulling from there himself). There are elements that reminded me a great deal the Blind Dead and some of Fulchi’s zombie films… The face of one of the creatures towards the end, I’m not even sure WHAT it reminds me of – but it certainly reminds me of something, and I bet Doctor Who based the Ood on it… Apparently we all read the same books. One of the end scenes is straight out of The Beyond – in fact, I think they may have actually pulled it off better than in The Beyond!
In the end, it works… It works because they’re doing it correctly – capturing the feel and the moment rather than the clumsy way too many people try to to homage by naming their characters “Mr Craven “or “Mr Romero “and slapping up horror posters all over their sets. There is none of that here, but rather respectful re-creations of elements from tried-and-true horror films that work and bring you back to those moments. But as I said, the over reliance on this kind of homage mentality keeps it from being original, and that does limit it. The extreme gore, directly aims it at a specific audience that is probably going to get a lot of these references, but may keep away others that could’ve used this as a gateway to horror. Ultimately, I suspect this will keep it from becoming a classic though I’m sure it will still eventually end up in my own collection…
The ultimately, it may keep it from becoming a classic though I suspect it will still eventually end up in my own collection…
The void is playing in select theatres on a limited run right now – The Capitol will be running at one more time this Saturday at midnight! Do yourself a favor and catch this while you still have the chance of seeing on the big screen!
I was sure I had seen this before. Really. I mean, it’s just one of those things everyone takes for granted. We’ve all see the classic monster films at some time in our lives right?
Still, I knew I hadn’t seen the Fly on the big screen and the chance to go to a Vincent Price movie in is an instant affirmative. So I packed up my car and headed out to the capitol for thier “Reel Science” (complete with an expert on flies giving a talk at the end of the flick) screening of the Fly.
My first inkling that I may not have actually seen this before was the color credits. Surely this film isn’t in color? I was confused. Every still, photo, screen grab…any material at all that I’d ever seen regarding this film was in glorious black and white. Indeed, that picture book the image of the fly in it- the one that had scared me so as a child…that was in black and white. So what gives? The Capitol wouldn’t DARE commit the most heinous of crimes – screening a colorized print of a black and white movie…would they?
Or wait…could this actually be in color? I mean, the blood dripping down from that hydraulic press sure looks cherry red – if this was a conversion, I’d expect it to look black with a red tinge on the outside….
Oh my God. I’ve never actually seen this before have I? This is going to be incredible. It’s one of my favorite things, catching films in the theater that I was too young to actually go to when it first came out, and I was going to be fortunate enough to see the Fly for the first time the way it was meant to be.
The Fly is nothing like the movie I expected it to be. It’s a slow burn, with a healthy dose of crime procedural in it, told mostly in flashback. There were a LOT of times when I though I was watching CSI:Fly rather than a horror movie.
Still, for all of the focus on the mystery of the accident rather than the monster, the movie maintains a tense atmosphere throughout. The search for the escaped experiment, the shrouded scientist, cloaked in shadows in the basement laboratory keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering if he’ll be able to make things right by the end. This is not a campy horror romp with a mad scientist turning himself into a monster and then rampaging through the town. In a lot of ways, this is really a character study. It’s a Shakespearian tragedy (You know, if Shakespeare had written about man-flies. Don’t judge too quickly there either. Shakespeare wrote some pretty gnarly things… This totally isn’t out of the question!).
Then there’s that scene.
You know which one I’m talking about. The fly with a man’s head, caught in a spider web. It’s been parodied to death. Everyone has seen someone do that imitaition of the tiny voice screaming “Help me! Help meeeee!” Familiarity breeds contempt. This is just a cheesy scare right?
Not even a little. This scene is horrifying. It’s not a semi-transparent head superimposed on a rubber flu body. The head thrusts out of the flys body as if it’s molting. Tendrils and strands cling to the chin and the spider as it slowly approaches is hideous. The close up, projected on that thirty foot tall screen as the helpless man head looks on terrified and despondent…it’s an image that stays with you. It’s one of the most terrible things I’ve ever seen in film.
The Fly is a brilliant movie, and I can’t even imagine what those early audiences, unmarred by the gore and violence of the slashers to come thought of this. It’s dramatic and suspenseful and caps off with some real horror.
And now I want more. Time to finally pull “Return of the Fly” off my shelf…but that’s a story for another time…