The Void’s Relationship with Lovecraft (They’re Not Just Friends)
Sean M. Sanford
An Indirect Direction
Somemovies are based on a book’s idea more than the actual happenings (The Shining much?”), while others can be based on a writer’s entire design. The Void draws parallels to some cherished designs of horror. Enough that, at least for me, it felt like a familiar and snuggly blanket. A blanket stitched in murderous tendencies? Sure. But snuggly nonetheless.
Crafting a Specific Love…craft
One noted homage is that a la Lovecraft. HP to friends. A man who reveled in the dread we experience while sparring a Holy Shit brand of question mark. A question mark fluent in wriggling beyond our human rendition of understanding and communication. Lovecraft introduces us to items from a world that dwarf our ruling species’ significance. Both The Void and a lot of Lovecraft’s stories shimmy the waltz of horror alongside her bedmate, science fiction.
A Cosmic World Minus Meditation
One blood brother of Lovecraft’s fiction is his use of Cosmicism: The idea that every aspect of our regular life is merely a vulnerable shell that masks dimensions steeped in alien abstraction. Enough trippitude that so much as a glimpse would sever any rendition of sanity. Take The Whisperer in the Darkness, about a regular ol’ lit teacher. Upon hearing of some paranormal unsolved mysteries afoot, this teacher bitterly obsesses over it, imagining it all to be Fake News. Instead of Tweeting about it though, he takes the bait of a farmer who claims to have proof of some extraterrestrial maleficence. According to the farmer, these aliens worship the type of deities who are prone to assume the likeness of any human or animal they choose. The farmer later starts going off about all kinds of shit; like how they can remove a person’s brain and put it in a canister where it can survive indefinitely and join their new friends on a one-way trip to Pluto. Wow, sounds like a real bargain. Turns out the farmer had in fact had his own brain canned, and the aliens were using his face and hands as costume props to assume his likeliness.
That sounds Cosmic as fuck to me.
Comparably surreal realities plague The Void, to varying degrees for each character. The only ones who aren’t complete babbling idiots half the time are two nameless dudes, criminals (demonstrably wicked enough to question the definition of sanity) who have clearly made previous acquaintance with the cosmic goods at hand. At least until they mosey down a stairway to an unfamiliar and fucked up dimension. Figures.
It’s a Different World Than Where You Come From
The Void takes a dark(er) turn when a new door is opened. A stairway that has allegedly never been noticed by anyone who works there.
The passage takes them down down down, directly to the nucleus of horror, where Dr. Powell-turned-demonic practices a devotion toward a world thatbathes in monstrous attributes. Like re-animated cadavers n’ shit.
Neighboring dimensions of terror can be found in many-a Lovecraft. In his novella The Mound, an explorer discovers an underground world furnished with temples designed for ghastly worship and chock full of telepathic monstrosities. Going deeper, said civilization had constructed that world atop another world, which is simmering with even freakier abnormalities. This is similar to when we discover that the underworld in The Void is equipped with a doorway to another, even more unspeakable sphere via a triangular doorway.
Lovecraft also employs this theme in At the Mountains of Madness, which shows us a team of scientific explorers who journey to the fun-friendly realm of Antarctica. Here they discover a giant city, hidden and abandoned, made of stone, and not resembling any structures seen by man; mostly because Sci-Fi movies were in their infancy at best.
Settings That Conduct the Vibe
The hospital that The Void takes place in is introduced as a sparsely populated environment in the process of being moved elsewhere. This is because of some structural fires that had proved too ironic for a place of healing. (Fires we later learn were a product of our monster-friend Dr. Powell and his minions.) Such is the case we see in several Lovecraft stories, beginning our fearful feast with appetizers of environment. In HP’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the title setting is revealed to be a depressed fishing town, strewn with decrepit buildings and people who move with a clumsy gait and have faces that look suspiciously aquatic. Fish-peop’s to the layman.
HP is PO’d
Lovecraft once said, “…all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.” One must “forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, [have] any existence at all” [Lovecraft, Literary Hub, Web]. When we first meet Deputy Carter and the rest of the folks at the hospital, we see a dialogue about very human concerns.
Like Carter’s demonstrated ex-flex when he sees nurse Fraser; also the pregnant lady who’s gone into labor. That’s so Earthling. As the movie progresses, the characters are faced with a scenario that continues to look less and less like any kind of problem they have any idea how to quell. Piece by piece, moment by moment, they tumble down the well away from their known reality, until even the halls around them are sub-normal and menacing. Including but not limited to a pregnant lady giving birth to pretty much a demon.
Despite Lovecraft’s vocally adamant racism, and its foundation to a lot of his themes, such concepts can also be employed by totally non-racist filmmakers like Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, the creative duo who brought us The Void. Gillespie has said that The Void’s conceptual embryo came from overhearing Guillermo del Toro speak while working on a filmified rendition of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Del Toro said that he was working on a depiction of HP Lovecraft that had yet to be seen. Such an idea struck with Gillespie, and thus began he and Kostanski’s brainchild that would eventually become the movie we know and love [Coming Soon, Jeremy Gillespie on Making The Void, Web].
I like to imagine that a key difference to their Lovecraft tribute was a movie whose backbone doesn’t celebrate racism, sublime nor overt. It could even be argued that the never-quite-explained troop of hooded figures who stalk the hospital could be, in a way, Gillespie and Kostanki’s way of including just a tinge of KKK stylings. Maybe they’re nothing more than an homage to Lovecraft by making them essentially worthless modes of intimidation. Just like the KKK.
A Sweet Movie Birthed Hereupon
The Void borrows so many wonderful aspects of horror to tell its tale, and the Astron 6 alumni Kostanki and Gillespie team up with echoes of Lovecraft to bring it to life. Holy shit what a life it lives. There is something to be celebrated about using age-old tactics to tell modern stories, especially when they are converted in well-spoken ways and borrow aspects of the genre from those of timeless craftsmen. The Void uses the bleak atmosphere of a world’s collision with aspects of reality that we can’t possibly fathom (stepping away from some racist and sexist undertones) and all the while employing tools borrowed from contemporary masters. I think we’ve got a modern classic on our hands here, friends. Enjoy. Maybe leave the lights on though.