We can thank Rosemary’s Baby and Alien for dragging childbirth into modern horror. “I know your secret,” mutters The Void’s bad guy Dr. Powell as he teases the protagonist for his relief at his wife’s recent miscarriage. The instinct to resist impregnation (or even multiplication) is at the heart of Ripley’s first encounter with a xenomorph. Hell, eggs themselves were used to warn audiences in 1979 that it was probably already too late, that the reproductive wheels had been turning since before they were in line for popcorn.
The Void is graced by not one but two pregnant women. Upstairs, a nursing intern can’t bring herself to improvise a desperately needed C-section. This is ostensibly due to her lack of experience and her fear of doing more harm than good, but that shiny pale belly sticking out at her (and the audience) might as well contain a space monster as anything else. Downstairs, nascent daddy Danny Carter has little trouble hacking away at his pregnant wife with an ax.
In Channel Zero: Candle Cove we see not one, but two women kill their sons, albeit for different reasons. And granted one of them is a serial killer, but she starts the slaughterfest with her own child. What’s more, nearly half the time we find ourselves lost in the woods, surrounded by wooden children begging to be mowed down by a machine gun atop a speeding jeep.
Kids make wonderful horror movie villains, from Children of the Corn to The Brood and, more or less, Carrie. I spent more than a few nights as a ten year-old cowering under my blankets scared that the fucking Shining twins would pay me a visit. So I guess it’s nice to see parents fighting back for a change.
One YouTube critic (I forget which one) quipped that The Void pays homage to at least four John Carpenter films. I agree, and it’s worth noting that all three films in his apocalypse trilogy (The Thing, Prince of Darkness, In The Mouth Of Madness) show characters unsuccessfully resisting the invasion of evil impregnating forces. The Antichrist himself makes a go of it by impregnating a woman in Prince of Darkness, showing rueful audiences yet another writhing, slithery, engorged belly just seconds away from bursting.
Both Candle Cove’s Eddie Painter and The Void’s Dr. Powell think they’ve found a way to transcend the cycle of life and death through the crucible of suffering. It’s a lot of trouble to go to, and both of them seem more than willing to see it through. The torture of being ruthlessly bullied or losing a child is surely more than enough to make one lose one’s mind.
It’s in these dark crevices of despair that victims turn themselves into monsters, probably most adeptly portrayed by Session 9‘s endlessly sad Gordon Fleming. “I live in the weak and the wounded,” quips the beast at the end of that film. It’s an out, but an empty one: an invitation to turn life against itself, à la Danny Carter’s dead infant son with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck—the ultimate symbol of the futility of life, as The Void’s Dr. Powell puts it—proves tempting for some, but in the end it’s really just trading life for death. Even the satisfaction of your revenge can’t follow you there.