The Void

By Tim McEown

Mailed on April 04, 2017

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Dear Samy Inayeh

Dear Samy,

Maybe it’s simply a matter of geography. We Canadians live in the upper reaches of the Northern hemisphere and perhaps, because of that fact, how we understand light and its effects (and affect) is different than our Southern cousins. Also it may stem from a technical deficiency, given how low budget films often have to simply make do with what’s at hand. Whatever the reason, ‘Canadian lighting’ is a very real thing. And mostly it’s not good.

Not good at all.

Truth is, The Void is a type of film I often enjoy: a low budget, high concept creature feature made with a lot of ambition and very little money. Filled with a cast of Canadian inevitabilities like Kenneth Walsh, Art Hindle and James Millington, and filmed in Sault Ste Marie, The Void has all the external attributes of a plucky little horror joint that overcomes it’s limitations by sheer force of will and inventiveness.

And there are moments where that is the case, including a couple of examples of effective prosthetic work in the final act that echo some of the better work in the Hellraiser series, as well as scattered moments of genuine tension. But these are few and entirely too far between.

Most of what makes or breaks a film, regardless of genre or budget—things like character development, crisp narrative intention, visual imagination, technical proficiency—feel lacking or entirely absent for most of the run time of The Void. The characters are so flat that they bend in the wind, and the plot is a stitched together amalgam of some pretty hackneyed tropes. The editing is choppy and often confused, with cuts that unintentionally dislocate the audience, dropping us in and out of various circumstances without adequate spatial context.

Then there is the lighting.

It’s difficult to articulate an absence but I’ll try. There is simply no art here. The lighting is either flat and affectless, infecting scenes with a dull sheen that induces boredom and disinterest, or so muddy and obtuse that there are several moments where I had no idea what was happening. Inasmuch as there are no lighting technician credits on the IMDb page, I don’t have much choice but to lay the blame at your feet, Samy. But I also understand this seems to be an institutional affectation that’s hardly specific to The Void. Canadian films as a whole often suffer from this malaise, as if they think it’s some kind of cheat to light a scene with anything other than the bare minimum required for visual coherence. This leads to a dull, same-y quality that undermines whatever uniqueness these films may (or may not) possess.

More than that though, there is a creative inertia at work, a sort of default setting that resembles a moderately competent corporate video. Whereas other films make a virtue of the inherent limitations of a small budget and practical effects—an example of this kind of creative reach, and a film that shares a lot of genre DNA with The Void, is 2008’s SplinterThe Void seems to settle for ‘good enough’. Where Splinter is a film that manages to evoke and maintain a tension and menace due to imaginative but lo tech lighting effects and camera work, The Void is an example of a film that is almost entirely lacking in these qualities.

I wanted to like this film, but it didn’t give me any help at all.



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