What is the philosophy of cosmicism? and how is it used to convey a sense of dread in both The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Void
The philosophy of cosmicism (sometimes referred to as cosmic horror) is one that cannot be disassociated from the work of H.P Lovecraft and of those influenced by them. According to Stableford (2006), cosmic horror deals with concepts such as the insignificance and naivety of humankind. In Steven Kostanki and Jeremy Gillespie’s horror film The Void and Lovecraft’s own The Shadow over Innsmouth, these ideas are explored and used to help convey a sense of dread felt by the characters of these worlds. According to Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary, dread refers to either the fear one can have of an event which will occur, or the more archaic use of the term which refers to the reverence one can hold towards someone or something (Miriam-Webster, n.d). The Void arguably presents dread under both definitions through the expected trappings associated with the horror genre, in addition to the motivations behind the actions of the film’s occult figures.
While monsters are a hallmark of the horror genre, the appearance of the creatures in The Void do not adhere to the fixed laws of nature referenced in Stableford (2006). Instead, they evoke imagery associated with creatures from works of fiction such as William Home Hodgson’s The Hog, films such as John Carpenter’s The Thing and video games such as those belonging to id Software’s Doom franchise. Creatures in works of fiction such as these are often presented as having aspects of their appearance that are either derived from, or reminiscent of something that is within the realm of possibility from our knowledge of the world. On the other hand, these creatures often exhibit physical features which suggest that they are either from another world or are inherently dangerous due to our unfamiliarity with their appearances.
The creatures in The Void exhibit humanoid features in part due to them being human corpses which have been reanimated and transformed. For the characters of The Void, the mere existence of these creatures brings into question what little they may actually know about the world they live in. For Daniel Carter and Allison Fraser, this knowledge gives an ounce of justification to the actions of their friend Richard. Who cheats death and is the leader of a mysterious cult which engages in questionable activities to say the least. This knowledge would also lead to dread in the form of the possibility that Richard may actually be right, and that there is a way to bring back loved ones who have since passed (significant because Daniel and Alison had recently lost a child). Which would mean that they would have to follow a path similar to Richard’s. In The Shadow over Innsmouth, its central characters or creatures are described as sentient, humanoid beings with an appearance that is reminiscent of fish. Additionally, the knowledge of the deep ones’ existence and assimilation within the world conveys a central tenet of cosmicism discussed in Stableford (2006). Where the human consciousness is conveniently or wilfully blind to the realities of the world.
Miriam Webster. (n.d.). Definition of dread. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dread
Stableford, B. (2007). The cosmic horror. In Icons of horror and the supernatural: An encyclopedia of our worst nightmares (pp. 65-92). Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group.