Some years back, Guillermo Del Toro – the man behind visually stunning movies like “Pan’s Labyrinth” – revealed he was gearing up to create a big budget adaptation of Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains Of Madness.”
It seemed like it was time for “Dagon” to lose its placed as the best Lovecraft film adaptation. Fans were split on the casting however, with many upset about Hollywood heartthrob Tom Cruise taking the role of doomed researcher Danforth.
Personally, I think the casting was spot on because A) Cruise is already insane so it wouldn’t be acting and B) his beliefs as a high level Scientologist about humanity’s origins actually aren’t significantly different from what Danforth discovers about how the species started in “At The Mountains Of Madness.”
Sadly it wasn’t meant to be, because some moron studio executive decided putting money into a hard-R horror flick wasn’t going to net a return (although now that hard-R super hero flicks are a thing, maybe that decision will change). For now, the indie film makers will have to tackle the more disturbing elements of horror, and perhaps that’s how it should be.
That leads us to “The Void,” which is now taking the place of the best, most effects-laden Lovecraftian movie of the age, even thought it doesn’t draw from a specific Lovecraft tale and instead is simply suffused with Cthulhu Mythos elements.
A crowd funding success story, “The Void” is brought to us by a small team of film makers with a passion for practical effects over computer generated ones, and it really shows. They manage to do a whole lot with so little in mostly one location.
I’d been following the movie’s progress for years now, since before even the crowd funding campaign, so as we got closer to VOD release a certain unease started to grow as I wondered if perhaps I’d overhyped this for myself. Were we about to witness a gigantic flop that just had a good trailer?
Thankfully no, this is the real deal, and of particular note is the level of acting for such a small budget flick. For the most part, the leads are on par with or even exceeding what you get with indie classics like “Grave Encounters,” “Willow Creek,” “Creep,” “Absentia,” etc.
There are a ton of Mythos references throughout the movie (the main character’s name is Carter for instance), including some that are going to delight tabletop RPG fans who dig the Call Of Cthulu roleplaying game. During the movies opening moments there’s a curious lack of sound quality as some odd events occur. The sound evens out shortly after, but then later as the main characters are all gathered in a hospital fleeing cultists, suddenly the sound becomes grainy, static-laden, and distorted yet again.
At first I thought this was just a side effect of the movie’s low-budget nature, but then it dawned on me: we were literally hearing when the investigators are losing sanity. When a stabilizing force comes in, like when an officer takes control of the situation or a horrible thing from beyond is defeated, sound returns to normal as sanity is regained. My interest in the movie immediately shot up even more as I realized we were watching a Call Of Cthulhu scenario in film form.
From there you’ll notice a lot of CoC scenario staples, like stumbling upon Polaroids of terrible things and a cache of eldritch tomes filled with unspeakable knowledge when the investigators figure out the identity of the real antagonist. The crew behind the movie clearly has a love for all things horror though, as it’s not just cosmic horror of the Lovecraftian variety on hand.
The last third of the film takes a hard left turn into “Hellraiser,” complete with a skinless man and walls recessing to access the abyss. Those familiar with Italian horror will note the final frame of the movie is 100% homage to Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond,” another harrowing tale of hell unleashed on earth.
Simply put: “The Void” delivers on the effects, the story, the scares, and the acting. It’s one of the best horror flicks I’ve seen in recent memory, and its blessedly not a remake, reboot, prequel, or sequel. It easily beats out the low budget competition and even manages to create a better experience than most of the big budget schlock coming out of the horror genre these days.
This team needs to be given access to bigger budgets and more stories, and hopefully we’ll see another IndieGogo campaign in the not-too-distant future!