By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
What makes a film scary? It’s a simple question that is filled with complexities at the same time and an issue that doesn’t contain a single answer. Instead, it is a personal critique on the genre of horror itself because what makes a horror film linger under our skins to a point where we as viewers become childlike and begin turning on the lights and checking in our closets or under our beds for monsters that might violate us during the long night. In the nineteen eighties, our idea of what made a horror movie remarkably was its practical effects and simple designs.
Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski pay homage to this idea with their directorial debut film The Void, a sci-fi mystery narrative that portrays the simplistic story of a small town police officer being locked inside of the hospital that his wife works at. With a group of differing individuals ranging from a father and his pregnant daughter to an aspiring nurse who is there as an assistant. Including the character of an injured criminal that the officer brings into this hospital at the beginning of this film. Everything is going very regular and predictable until the officer hears hideous screams from a patient’s room where he witnesses a nurse removing the eyes of a patient in a violent manner. She turns around, and we notice her eyes have been withdrawn as well. She begins approaching, and our heroin is left no choice but to fire his weapon so that the imminent threat does not harm him or anyone else in the hospital.
After this tragic event, he goes outside to relay to dispatch what has occurred when he notices an auspiciously cloaked figure opposing his vehicle. He steps out of the vehicle after questioning what this assailant is doing; then this unknown person attacks him suddenly stabbing him in the shoulder. He runs inside and loses consciousness from shock and blood loss, and after he awakens realizes this hospital is now their prison. As now they are surrounded by hundreds of these white hooded figures. This initial act launches us on a journey of strange and violent occurrences that are seemingly linked to these mysterious hooded figures.
Co-written and co-directed by a makeup effects artist and an assistant art director that are attempting to pay homage to the genre and clichés of the horror genre in the nineteen eighties. This homage materializes into fruition with the exceptional design and reliance on the practical effects used in the film. A traditional technique is done by Hollywood’s past that becomes refreshing in today’s computer generated imagery landscape. This imagery has a stunning design as well with the technology working with the makeup techniques of yesterday to create an entrancing design for the opposing forces of the film. The visual imagery of this movie is unnerving and horrifically lingering with its unusual design. The screenplay itself is a bit muddled and conflicting.
With an intense focus on the vicious and alarming sequences instead of the characters themselves or the reasoning for the horrifying occurrences to take place. This flaw is understandable due to the premise of this film’s existence, which is pure to provide some adulation to the past of the horror genre. This explains the reliance on practical effects to a degree, the latter explanation being that the creators have worked slowly in the art departments of Hollywood. They are fans of practical effects to an excellent point of constructing their film to display not only their talents as makeup artists and art directors but as directors as well. The camera works as a vibrant addition to the movie with constant movement used to display the sense of forwarding of movement, but also provides a sense of unease or unstableness where we can’t find our footing to relax or take a breath. Instead, we constantly on the move and moving from obstacle to obstacle which begins to become more intriguing, but dreadful as well. As the reasoning for some of these occurrences becomes very jumbled and convoluted to the point of repulsion with the saving grace being the visual effects of the film.
The Void is a payback or sign of allegiance to the past of visual effects. Displaying a constant use of practical effects with only one sequence involving a green screen. Possible effects is a dying art in the landscape of filmmaking today, and Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski provide evidence to the contrary by exemplifying the brilliance that possible effects can present. While the screenplay is convoluted and conflicting, the acumen for the formulation of this film is realized with the attention of the criticisms praising the art of yesterday. Making me question if the landscape of filmmaking needs to begin utilizing the techniques of the past to re-embrace the physical style of yesterday that may lead to more resonating films that make us recognize the undeniable talent that these makeup artists possess and how they grasp our eye in a different way.