WHERE THIS EVIL HAILS FROM: The NeverEnding Story
WHY THIS EVIL MADE ME FILLE THE FEAR: The Nothing was my first experience in existential dread. Renting a movie was a big ordeal in my house. Not only would the movie have to be suitable for five children of various ages, but the VCR would also have to be rented. I can imagine how The NeverEnding Story must have seemed like a dream choice, yet it was a direct portal for my nightmares.
The film was a German production based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende. There were plenty of other, more obvious things to be scared of in the film such as the Gmork, a terrifying wolf creature the acted as the muscle for The Nothing, Artax being swallowed alive by the Swamp of Sadness, and don’t get me started on Morla, the giant oracle turtle creature. The Nothing scared me much more because it couldn’t be explained. It had no motive, and no purpose. The Nothing is described as such in the film: “You don’t feel a thing. There’s just something missing. And once it gets hold of you, something more is missing every day.” Only the Germans could make a children’s movie with depression as the big villain.
HOW THIS EVIL STILL DOES: It wasn’t until much later in life that I would recognize The Nothing as hitting on several horror tropes such as the Ultimate Evil (Final Destination), the Unstoppable Force (The Evil Dead), and the nihilist. Nihilist villains have nothing to lose and wish to destroy everything in existence. A textbook example would be Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight.
Nihilists are having a little bit of a moment in 2014, thanks to Matthew McConaughey’s character Rust Cohle in True Detective. Even Jay-Z is getting on the nihilist band wagon, sporting a leather jacket printed with the jacket cover of Eugene Thacker’s In the Dust of this Planet, Horror Philosophy Vol. 1, a book described as an “academic treatise about the horror humanity feels as we realize that we are nothing but a speck in the universe.” This echoes the last scene in The NeverEnding Story when Fantasia is reduced only to a single grain of sand.
However, the ultimate horror legacy from The NeverEnding Story doesn’t belong to The Nothing. That honour would have to go to the title theme song by Kajagoogoo.