THE VOID played the midnight slot of the opening night of this year’s FANTASTIC FEST and there is really no better place to screen this movie. A Carpenteresue take on Lovecraftian mythos chock full of gooey, gory special effects, EMPIRE PICTURES would be jealous of THE VOID circa 1986.
The film began its life as a Kickstarter and finally mutated into a feature film this year. Assistant Editor Mike Vanderbilt and Staff Writer Jason Coffman had a chance to pick the brains of co-directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie as well as producer Casey Walker about breaking out of the ASTRON 6 mold and the film’s terrific costume design.
Jason Coffman: Well first, I’d like to say that I really think THE VOID gets Lovecraftian cosmic horror better than anything I’ve seen since FROM BEYOND.
Jeremy Gillespie (JG, co-director): Oh, wow.
Steven Kostanski (SK, co-director): Yeah, thank you!
JC: It’s kind of weird now that it’s 2016 and there’s “Hello Cthulhu” and stuff like that, so that sort of cosmic horror is not that creepy any more.
SK: Yeah, the way it’s been integrated into pop culture now, Lovecraftian mythologies, in a very weird, unexpected direction.
JG: Yeah, it’s kind of become just a cartoon of itself a little bit.
Casey Walker (CW, producer): There’s like the little Japanese toys, cute plushies…
JC: Right, exactly! So I was wondering, when you were coming up with the mythology for THE VOID, did you go back to more direct literary references like Lovecraft, William Hope Hodgson, etc.?
SK: It wasn’t even like Lovecraft directly, it was more like Lovecraft-influenced–
JG: –and like weird fiction stuff overall, not super specific, you know? Just that kind of genre.
SK: Stuff that had that kind of vibe.
JG: I’d been reading a lot of (Thomas) Ligotti, and I think that just got into my brain and influenced a bunch of it. And of course, all the movies. There’s a Dan O’Bannon movie, THE RESURRECTED, that is maybe my favorite Lovecraft–
SK: Oh yeah, it’s definitely the best. It was never given an official release, I don’t think? Or maybe it came out on VHS in the 90s, but Dan O’Bannon directed it and Chris Sarandon–
Mike Vanderbilt (MV): From FRIGHT NIGHT?
SK: Yeah, he’s the main character. It’s kind of a loose adaptation of “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and it’s got tons of creature effects. It’s like a really zany but serious Lovecraft adaptation.
JG: It’s definitely dated, kind of in the same way HELLRAISER feels very of the 80s.
SK: It has stop motion and stuff, so it’s not always convincing, but there’s a lot of weird design choices that make it feel unsettling even if it still looks like rubber bullshit.
JC: The practical effects in THE VOID also reminded me a lot of a movie I just saw in the last year from the early 90s called METAMORPHOSIS–
SK: THE ALIEN FACTOR?
JC: Yeah! I remember seeing the VHS box a million times but I only just saw it last year.
MV: Is that the one that had the guy with the drill going into his head? With the raised graphic on the cover?
JC: No, but I remember that one, too.
SK: Yeah, that’s the one that had the button you pressed and the eyes light up!
MV: Absolutely! Never seen the movie, but that box art’s awesome!
SK: Yeah, it was that and THE DEAD PIT that were the two light-up boxes that used to freak me out as a kid!
MV: BLACK ROSES had a raised one, too. I remember that one from the video store that I frequented.
JG: I think if we can with the Blu-ray release, we’ll have glowing eyes on the cover–
SK: On Carter’s face? Carter in his cop car?
MV: (Jeremy and Steven) are part of Astron 6, but THE VOID is a lot more serious than the Astron 6 stuff. Was that a conscious decision on your part to go more serious?
JG: Oh, yeah.
SK: That was the challenge to ourselves. We wanted to make a legitimate horror movie that is still influenced by all the things that we like but isn’t jokey homage. Something that can stand on its own as a real movie. Like a random person could pick it up and watch it, not having seen something like THE BEYOND or PRINCE OF DARKNESS and still get something out of the movie. Essentially make it accessible while still being in our style, playing it straight.
JG: I said this in the Q&A last night, but we weren’t making direct references to anything, intentionally anyway–
SK: It might not feel like that!
JG: Looking back on it, I think that’s just what’s in our heads.
MV: It’s in your DNA.
SK: It’s so ingrained in our consciousness at this point we don’t know anything else.
CW: It’s hard because we’re all influenced by the same things. If you go looking for comparisons, you’ll find them everywhere. It’s just how it all coalesces into one whole, and there was never a moment where these guys were like “Oh, we’re totally gonna do it because it was that.” It was usually after the fact going “Wait, this is starting to drift too much towards one particular thing.” And then they’d start working to move back toward their own sensibilities.
SK: Well, in the horror genre the most fun thing you can do is take an existing thing, like a movie that you like, and build on your influences. I mentioned HELLRAISER II last night, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS. THE VOID is us trying to take that stuff further with our own sensibilities, so I feel like it’s influence but it’s not necessarily just taking a piece and redoing it.
JG: Yeah, it was more influenced by the vibe of those movies.
SK: More the tone and the feeling that those movies gave us. I distinctly remember watching PRINCE OF DARKNESS for the first time because my parents rented it for me for some reason–
SK: –and being so scared and confused. I didn’t understand why there was this green tube of ooze that dripped up for some reason? Just the confusion of that is so distinct in my memory. I wanted to evoke that vibe in other people with this. I think we were both hoping to accomplish that.
MV: The cult members’ costumes are gonna be iconic, I think. Or at least they should be. Who came up with that?
SK: The Disciples went through multiple iterations.
JG: I sketched out a dude in a hood with the triangle, and then Steve’s friend Devin sewed the costume.
SK: An effects artist and wardrobe friend of mine made the first prototype of the costume. And she took a few liberties with the design to make it a little more functional and that’s ultimately what gave us what’s in the movie. I think it was one of those cases where simpler was better. We debated all sorts of things with how they should look, but ultimately just white robes and triangles was the spookiest.
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