October 6, 2018

Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman Volume III - Sometimes I'm Wrong

The Void (2016)
The Void (2016) - Better the second time...
(10/4) The Void (2016)  I checked out about thirty minutes in the first time I watched The Void (2016), but I'd been troubled by the nagging suspicion that I hadn't given if a fair shake ever since.  Its initial release was greeted with such a deluge of hyperbolic reviews in the genre press that I now believe my first viewing was doomed from the outset.

     When posts start regularly trotting out comparisons to John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) - to name just one cinematic high water mark to which it was frequently compared - it's almost inevitable that the movie in question will underwhelm.  By the end of the first act I was already sufficiently irritated by the poor lighting and unnecessarily bloated cast to  just chalk up the glowing reviews to the horror fans' collective unfed hunger for a new instant classic.  The Void had a fine pedigree, a commendable commitment to practical effects, and a wealth of instantly recognizable tips of the hat to horror greats past, but it seemed to me to pale in comparison to the classics it referenced well before it ever managed to find its own raison d'etre.  It was a sincere and commendable effort hamstrung by its own lofty ambitions.  But at least they were trying, right?

     It turns out that a bit of distance from the fanfare and a bit more effort on the part of the viewer revealed a significantly different experience.  While The Void still falls short of the transcendence to which it clearly aspires, my second viewing left me with a far greater appreciation for the admittedly long list of things it gets right.  I still think the cast was unnecessarily bloated, and such an abundance of thinly drawn characters littered the narrative with subplots that went nowhere.  I still think the clunky and abrupt introduction of the story's "Big Bad" was almost unforgivably ham-fisted.  And I still think the lighting throughout was downright shameful given the obvious attention to detail manifest in The Void's sometimes brilliant practical effects.  (I feel obliged to give an appreciative shout out here to the minion in the basement who had apparently spent years slamming his forehead into a blunt object in a desperate attempt to end his tortured existence.  That was pure nightmare fuel.)

     The Void's final third builds upon its nightmarish imagery with admirable aplomb, and I've never demanded total narrative coherence in the works of Argento and Fulci, so it's unfair to demand such of a newer flick that treads similar ground.  The Void's ad hoc appropriation of Fulci's haunting final image from The Beyond (1981) still works like gangbusters in its new context, and the overall effect of its deployment here more than justifies the blatant cribbing.

     I'm not too proud to admit when my initial assessment of a movie was compromised, and my second trip through The Void was a journey well worth taking.  Like many of the greats it shamelessly emulates, The Void is an undeniably flawed effort that still manages to evolve into something greater than the sum of its stitched together parts.  (Re-watch)


  1. You've piqued my interest. Is this one in the bin of possibilities for a movie night? If not, I might have to find a copy to watch on my own.

    1. I'd say it's definitely in the bin, but I hope I didn't oversell it. It was intentional that the paragraph describing all of the things I still didn't like about it was longer than the one praising it. Still, it is easier to forgive flaws when the attempt is ambitious.

  2. Brandon,
    I found _The Void_ to also be a well coordinated film that delivered just what it intended. Surely this would have been one of those great VHS finds if the movie came out fifteen years ago.
    May I share one bit of criticism for some current projects? I would like your feedback. I've noticed a new trend in Horror that looks to make everything so obscure and undecipherable that people pretend to know what is going on and like the work. In particular I am thinking of _Castle Rock_ on Hulu. People have been raving about how great it was, but I found it to be so self-absorbed that it never let any of the viewers in. _Westworld_ did an outstanding job of building a narrative and linking plot elements, but _CR_ felt lazy and uncertain of its own direction.
    Am I missing something? Help, me, Obi Wan. You are my only hope!

    1. I've not sampled Westworld, but I've already devoted one whole dismissive sentence to Castle Rock in the preceding post. I only watched the first episode, and it didn't engage me at all. There are just too many worthy programs vying for my attention for me to stick with one that almost seemed to be challenging me to return for a second episode. I know it's bad when that second episode is just sitting right there ready to go, and I can't be bothered.

      Castle Rock seemed to me to be trying too hard to set the table with a smorgasbord of tiny morsels name checking every Castle Rock set tale King ever wrote. Unfortunately, in doing so it failed to suggest what the main course might be. Maybe there was a point to that tactic and Castle Rock ultimately becomes the most impressively interconnected web of detail imaginable. At first blush, though, it struck me as fan fiction with a budget. Having said that, perhaps there is a more charitable way of reading my disinterest...

      I absolutely loved the Twin Peaks revival, but I know anyone not familiar with all the minutiae of literally decades of Twin Peaks inspired media would have been lost and annoyed. In fact, it killed me a little to have no one to talk to about it, but I knew better than to suggest it to the uninitiated. Twin Peaks was definitely for me, but it most assuredly wasn't for everyone. Maybe Castle Rock was only for the Stephen King fanatics - the ones who were tickled to death to have the opportunity to connect all the dots in his universe.

      The wealth of platforms available now allows the creators to aim their creations to their own very specific demographics. That's great if you're part of that demographic. I've been a fan of Twin Peaks since the beginning, and I was treated to eighteen glorious episodes of undiluted Lynchian weirdness made just for me. I can only assume there's a similar, undoubtedly much larger demographic that enjoyed Castle Rock in the same fashion, and I simply wasn't the intended audience.

    2. And by the way... thanks for dropping by the Dog Farm again. I've missed writing replies to comments that are longer than the posts themselves, but that only works if someone is commenting.


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