All kinds of people describe themselves as geeks these days. It seems every beautiful 18-year-old starlet or singer gushes in interviews about how she was “such a nerd” in high school. (I.e., five or six months ago.) Of course, if you pressed said celeb on her geek cred, the best she could come up with would probably be something along the lines of, “I’ve totally seen Star Wars!”
I’m not here to bitch and moan about these egregious act of pop-cultural appropriation, though. The way I see it, the more people who claim the mantle of geekdom, falsely or not, the more our corporate entertainment overlords feel compelled to produce nerdy projects that would never have seen the light of day in ye olden times of, oh, fifteen years ago. Game of Thrones doesn’t happen if half the American population isn’t bragging about how awkward they were in high school. You used to lie about that shit. Now it’s a badge of honor.
But how, you cry, does one separate the authentically nerdy from the tourists? There are a few tried and true methods. (Kirk vs. Picard being the Hammurabi’s Code of such tests.) Today we’re going to examine one in particular.
Next time you meet someone whose profession of authentic geekdom you find yourself doubting, here’s what you do: talk about how much you love cosmic horror. If the subject of your test replies with anything along the lines of, “At the Mountains of Madness rules!” . . . well now, you’ve got yourself a gin-u-wine nerd. If, on the other hand, they hem and haw or blink and stare at you blankly? That doesn’t mean they’re definitively not a geek. But anyone who actually knows what cosmic horror means is authentically nerdy in a “Sure, I’ve rolled a d20 or two in my day” way.
Or, failing that, you could just show them The Void. If they like this movie, yeah, they’re geeks. If they instead react with disgust or irritated confusion or both, they’re tourists.
Made in Canada on a shoestring budget (reportedly around eighty grand), The Void sets itself to the task of delivering on the horror and majesty of H.P. Lovecraft’s vision of a universe so incomprehensible to our mere mortal minds as to be utterly terrifying. It does so by throwing a ragtag group of people into a mostly-abandoned hospital, surrounding that hospital with white-robed cultists, and unleashing grotesquely mutated patients on our protagonists/victims. (So, so, so many tentacles.)
I’m not going to delve too far into the plot because . . . well, I’d probably sound like a crazy person if I tried to explain what happens in The Void in a linear way, stopping to explain why each twist in the story makes sense. And, really, it might not make sense in any linear, rational way. Which, if you’ve read your Lovecraft, is exactly the point. Our foolish notions of linear time and an ordered universe are just that: foolish notions. What’s really out there is so vast, so alien, as to blast our minds when we’re faced with it. In that, The Void is about as pure a distillation of Lovecraft’s vision as I’ve seen that isn’t based on one of his actual stories.
Does The Void have its flaws? Sure. The cast gives it a valiant effort, but at this budget, you’re generally getting the actors you pay for. On the other hand, the special effects the crew managed to wring out of that budget is pretty impressive. And its creators deserve credit for shooting the moon here. They’re not trying to get at a little of the Lovecraftian feel; they’re going for it all. It’s like they were told they could only make one movie, ever, and they were determined to jam every single idea they’d ever had into it. I appreciate the ambition, even if the execution is a little janky at times. The Void is worth a watch.
. . . If you’re a real nerd, that is.