Spirits of the Void is a fascinating and beautifully rich slow-paced thriller that delves deep into the fragility of the human psyche and how easily it can break down when faced with adversity. Although its premise is fairly simple, Spirits of the Void shines with its economic commentary and relatable themes of fear and stress, all of which give this 2023 indie horror its richness and depth.
In his feature film debut, writer/director Jason Miller creates an undeniably haunting horror film. Through suspense, heartbreaking music and eerie images, Miller creates an astonishingly eerie atmosphere. The characters are compelling and the performances from Tedra Millan (A league of its own, Stories of the city) and Michael Reagan (Lovecraft country, The Winchesters) are excellent. Miller storms onto the stage with surprisingly impressive words Spirits of the Voidand it’s easy to imagine it being on year-end best-of lists for horror and thriller fans.
Winning the Scariest Feature Film Award at the Ninth Annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival, Spirits of the Void It follows Jen (Tedra Millan) and Tyler Miller (Michael Reagan), a couple who were recently evicted from their home and are now forced to spend the rest of the night in their car. Aside from being stressed, tired, and overwhelmed by their emotions, the couple parks in an empty lot where they hope to finally get some sleep. However, this sleep is soon interrupted by a homeless passerby, mischievous local children and strangers wearing menacing masks. As Jen and Tyler battle exhaustion and the fear of the harsh realities of tomorrow, their relationship is tested as the cracks behind their seemingly happy marriage become visible.
Impactful mental health topics
Jason Miller’s screenplay offers a compelling examination of mental health and the impact that stress, trauma and mental health issues have on individuals and their relationships. Miller manages to perfectly capture the fear through the fascinating character of Jen. She carries the burden of her and Tyler’s relationship completely on her shoulders, both financially and emotionally. While Tyler spends his time pursuing his dream of becoming a successful writer, Jen works hard to pay the bills. However, that doesn’t stop the two of them from making the numerous calls from debt collection agencies when the couple can’t pay their living expenses, which inevitably leads to the two of them becoming homeless.
Dealing with the insurmountable pressures of work, support, and dealing with numerous calls from debt collectors, Jen finds herself overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. She has panic attacks and trouble falling asleep, causing Jen to hallucinate. Miller offers a realistic depiction of fear and stress through his editing and sound design; Its quick cuts and sudden escalation of music force the audience to feel the fear that Jen is going through. In one of the film’s best moments, Jen has a panic attack. The music is deafening and the editing is unpredictable, but as Jen begins to do her calming exercises, the editing becomes less erratic and the music becomes quieter. It’s an expertly crafted scene and one of the best moments in the film.
On the other hand, the way Tyler is affected by stress is very different from Jen. Tyler is a failing writer with a drinking problem2, which causes him to act out and become consumed by anger and frustration every time he has had a drink or two. Tyler begins the film as a supportive and caring husband who adores his wife. But as the film continues and Tyler begins to see the other end of a small whiskey bottle, Tyler becomes unreasonably excited, lashing out at Jen and punching things. Seeing how stress is filtered through each of their neuroses is fascinating and offers many interesting dynamics.
A crumbling marriage
While Spirits of the Void is a fantastic example of how stress affects people differently, and also offers a fascinating insight into how struggling with mental health can affect relationships. At the beginning of the film, Jen and Tyler are incredibly supportive of each other. Sure, both of them are stressed and frustrated in small amounts, but they immediately apologize and make it up to their partner. Despite their situation, they try to have fun together. We see flashbacks of the couple cuddling in bed, laughing and dreaming of a future together, showing how in love they are with each other.
However, it doesn’t take long for stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep to arise and start affecting their relationship. As the night grows darker, the truth about their relationship soon comes to light. Through further flashbacks throughout the film, it becomes clear that Tyler’s severe drinking problem and frustration at home led to an explosive argument in which he hit Jen. In many ways, after the eviction, they stick together despite their broken marriage, and all the problems get worse.
Spirits of the Void The complexity allows for numerous twists and turns that keep the audience on the edge of their seats, which is supported by the short but sweet running time of 90 minutes. The numerous flashbacks are cleverly distributed throughout the film, raise relevant questions in good moments and repeatedly clarify why a character behaves in a certain way. It all leads to a breathtaking and unexpected final act that provides a satisfying conclusion to their troubled marriage.
A haunting atmosphere
Spirits of the Void is one of the most disturbing films of the year. Through the deafening roar of its music (or lack thereof when it suddenly cuts out), the film envelops the audience in an isolating sense of menace. Seeing dark figures slowly moving behind the two characters or in the reflections of the car windows and mirrors surrounding them will evoke fear in the audience, and Miller’s masterful design makes these moments even more frightening.
Ultimately, Spirits of the Void uses the couple’s economic and emotional situation to fracture reality as they are hunted and haunted by various possible threats. The couple’s lack of eyesight, the car’s low fuel gauge, and the horrific harassment from creepy passersby force the characters and audience to lose their sense of reason and what is literal or figurative, adding to the film’s horror factor . It’s a brave, sad performance.
By Speakeasy Films, Spirits of the Void will be available digitally and on-demand starting November 17th following its limited theatrical release in October.