When it comes to horror, I’ve always gravitated towards the films that are slightly, or aggressively, off the beaten path of a stream-lined plot. These are films where the story is merely secondary to the feelings of dread and terror wrapped in gore, like Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, and Phantasm, to name a handful. Films like these aren’t just horror movies. They are surreal horror experiences.

This year, The Void joins those ranks, not as a homage, but a rightful piece of surrealist horror art.

The film begins with two young adults, a man with a rifle, and a body burned alive. This first scene not only foreshadows the level of activity that The Void brings. It also frames out the lens that we should look at each and every character we come across: a lens of suspicion and unknowing. This is the subliminal horror that The Void reaches out to when its special effects aren’t nodding towards John Carpenter’s The Thing, Leviathan, and Alien.

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The rest of the story involves the young adult that escapes as he is unwittingly rescued by local police officer Carter (played by Aaron Poole) and brought to a hospital in the midst of being relocated that happens to be where his estranged wife, Allison (played by Kathleen Munroe) works as a nurse. It is here that a metaphorical viral strain of crazy infects staff, patients, and visitors as hooded, knife-wielding cultists surround the hospital. Something is happening here, and the film is focused on making the audience experience the horrific events, with the plot being secondary. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Surreal horror films that attempt to explain what is going on eventually fall victim to feeling trite because they stop the flow of the film in order to explain. When you are dealing with something not of the normal plane of existence, such as it usually is with horror and science fiction, you have to decide whether you are going to tell the audience what they are seeing, or show them by helping them experience it. Very few are able to do both. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Brad Anderson’s Session 9 come to mind, so I won’t say that The Void couldn’t have been better. But I will say that it is in great company. And like all great horrors, there is always one actor that steals the show. That honor goes to Kenneth Welsh in his role as Dr. Richard Powell.

The Void is one of those films that any self-respecting horror aficionado has to watch. No, not watch. Experience.

The Void hits select theaters April 7, 2017.

By Pat Emmel

Patrick began collecting a library of VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs when he was young, and continues to build a library that could easily double as a video store and/or a revitalized Tower Records.