“Everything is about to change” is a simple sentence that can be relevant to dark or light matters, given the context. Unfortunately, for the poor souls trapped inside a rural hospital, change is not necessarily an anticipated state of being. The human anatomy is pulled, splattered, morphed, and harvested to host otherworldly creatures worthy of Cronenberg’s ranks in Jeremy Gillespie and Stephen Kostanksi’s The Void (2016).
Now available on Shudder, this modern homage to Lovecraftian style carnage pulses on within each cavity of the horror community. If you’ve yet to experience the plunge into 2016’s dark innards, my only advice to you, medically speaking, is to get that subscription up and running before you find yourself displaced in a vacant dystopian universe.
Starring Aaron Poole (The Conspiracy), Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks), Kathleen Munroe (Survival of the Dead), Daniel Fathers (Pontypool), Ellen Wong (GLOW) and Evan Stern (Robocop), The Void packs in the horror as it confines a slew of characters into the sterile walls of a local hospital on the verge of closing its doors due to the fire that consumed it years before. If you’re going into labor or are rushed by a crazed hooded stranger with a dagger you may think a hospital is the place you want to spend the night, right? Wrong. Police officers, staff, patients, and some town deviants are trapped inside the facility as it is quickly surrounded by strange hooded figures who remain a grave threat to anyone daring to flee. Just when the group comes to terms with the outside threat, the internal one grows. Literally. Horrifying creatures emerge from the hidden recesses of the building (and some other places too), turning the isolated hospital into a hotbed of extremely grotesque cult activity.
Whether you’re a supreme gore hound or a novice to the horror novelty, The Void is worth streaming for an abundant amount of prime, interconnected reasons. If you’re looking for a good body horror stream, The Void forms a straight-edged trifecta incorporating the human anatomy, creepy creatures, and fan driven nostalgia. Why should this second-rate sci-fi gusher slither its way to your screen? Lay back down on that gurney and let the following reasons invade your space because the doctor is in.
Modern Body Horror
As a new era of horror progresses, we’re caught in between advanced technological CGI use and the authenticity of applicable practical effects. Many of the major strengths of The Void are showcased in its special effects, combining both generated imagery and tactile visuals. Utilizing shock factor with drastic destruction of the body has launched Gillespie and Kostanski (Manborg) into the coveted levels of gore among the likes of Carpenter, King, Barker, and the aforementioned Cronenberg.
The two manage to give their characters realistic qualities and relationships, while also effectively using them as gruesome vessels of horror. Their dynamic is genuine and natural, which makes each scene of physical destruction so much more disturbing and gut-wrenching. When faced with gruesome imagery depicting the body in a less than whole state, it’s hard not to put yourself in the perspective of the victim. Gillespie and Kostanski present us with a group of people no different from any average viewer, then dares them to imagine the sheer nightmare of their skin, bones, and organs physically morphing into evil incarnate.
While we have been busy focusing on more artistic, interpretive horror-adjacent tales, The Void takes both the plot and the effects back to the basics of true body horror. There is no destruction for the sake of destruction, but each mutilation and flaying crafted to give that tongue-in-cheek gross out factor. As the story unfolds, it’s easy to see that the human body is both sacrificed in extremely gratuitous fashion as well as in meaningful purpose. The Void remains simple in using the body as a tool of skin-crawling measure, giving viewers that spine-tingling, stomach turning terror many other films strive to maintain. It has decoded the formula simulating the graphic effects and (hopefully) fictitious creatures from the past, but knocks the dial-up a notch come the end of the first act. The Void has become the subversive film on the body horror block. It ultimately, and quite literally, combines the best of two worlds: degradation of the body and creature transformation.
Creature Feature Formula
The Void undoubtedly shines as an ambitious low-budget horror flick, impressively stacking each scene with morbid wear and tear on the body. Gillespie and Kostanski push to go the extra mile by giving life to some gruesome beings on top of the traditional blood and gore. Not being a huge fan of creature features myself, I find it hard to select the less generic creations (The Thing, The Fly) when discussing films past the fan favorites. Creature tales usually follow an easy formula – exchanging plot factors for obnoxious visuals, resulting in nonsensical illusions of attainable fright.
Given that all of the special effects were crowdfunded, you may expect The Void to be one of those D+ features using monsters and imaginative beasts purely to give the story a villain. What you get is a strong, violent, and wild creature feature inspired by old school Lovecraftian flesh. The way they shape and form by violently morphing out of their human hosts is unreal… and rightfully disgusting.
What I loved about The Void was the way the creatures grabbed my attention and refused to release my view from terror. Relying on practical effects was a smart move on the filmmakers’ part. Any further use of digital imagery in this film would have truly dropped it down the splatter ladder. Each creature is uniquely, and grossly, crafted to give viewers the best experience possible with their limited budget. Amazingly, it succeeds in ways that films with million dollar allowances can only dream of.
All in all, The Void maintains horror conventions throughout, but peppers in audacious monstrosities presented so well that you’ll be unable to look away as you cringe. The Void remains free from cheesy, artificial creations, and instead peaks with simple, classic elements to bring their complex, tentacled beings to life. With expert use of special and practical effects reminiscent of 80’s film, The Void successfully gives birth to one of modern horror’s greatest creature features.
Bringing all of its angles into place, the last part of this exceptional trifecta of body horror pays respect to the genre in more than two ways. The Void seamlessly tackles the cult factor, and by doing so it appears to grow among the community like an oddly planted fetal seed. As films revolving around cults seem to not only aim higher in quality, but also grow in numbers the way members duplicate overnight, the topic is needlessly covered. It’s not exactly the easiest genre specialty to do right, let alone do right while including gross creatures and gnarly body mutilation on a limited budget, but The Void proudly does so with effect. Though the cult members, leader, and purpose does take the backseat to the masterful effects, this film properly portrays group influence and motive. The Void is worthy of a visit, or revisits, as it twists the tentacles of sci-fi and the occult together, both solidly stemming from the steady structure of glowing, quality body horror.
What should have been a one-time-view type of film has quickly gained notoriety among fans as whispers and discussions about this underdog continue to grow. The Void has fittingly turned its rad, nightmarish aesthetic into a surefire cult film complete with bold physical representation. It has changed the rules of low-budget effects, reorganized the chromosomes of creature feature formulas, and transformed bodily gore into a substantial modern horror novelty.
A few words of professional advice for all you first time viewers out there: Take deep breaths, don’t watch on a full stomach, and always get a second opinion.
Have you streamed The Void on Shudder? Are you into this modern take on body horror? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook. And while your here, check out previous installments of Stream and Scream, where I recommend a horror gem currently available to stream on one of the major media platforms!