When it comes to horror, I live for the moment.
Or not. I dunno. My point is that over the last few years of being an active participant in the online horror movie discussion community, I've grown so tired of hearing diehard genre fans moan and grumble about how the modern state of horror cinema. Every month I discover hidden gems on Netflix. In an age where access to new movies is nearly unlimited, I'll admit that there are plenty of clunkers hogging queue space, but mixed in between are your Dead Withins and Jug Faces and a whole host of direct-to-whatever-format-
that-isn't-a-movie-theater treasures lurking about. Sure, they pretty much all have the same generic cover art, but poke around just a tad (be it on IMDB resumes or your favorite blogs' reviews) and I promise you that you will find movies to satisfy your grumpy mood.
That's how I came to 2014's quietly released The Canal. Facebook group friends and fellow bloggers had been heavily endorsing it, so a Netflix DVD later, I live to share.
Quick Plot: David is a film archivist happily married to the beautiful career woman Alice.
Or so he thinks.
It’s obvious (to us, anyway) that Alice is having an affair, a revelation poorly timed with David’s discovery that their historical home (shared with their adorable 4 year old son Billy) has hosted several grisly murders. Before you can figure out if that’s a ghost or camera spot, Alice turns up dead in the titular nearby canal.
Naturally, David is the prime suspect even after it’s ruled that Alice’s death was an accident. As he continues his own investigation into his house’s haunted history, David begins to see possible apparitions or demons determined to repeat past crimes. In the process, he also appears to be going completely insane, at least in the eyes of his nanny and coworkers.
Written and directed by Ivan Kavanagh, The Canal has been slowly garnering some quiet but dedicated praise from the horror community. Perhaps that raised my expectations a little too high as I appreciated The Canal, but was far from wowed by it.
The story itself is hardly new, though the performances are particularly strong. We can’t quite get on David’s side with some of his decisions, but Rupert Evans imbues him with enough heart that he certainly has our sympathies. Perhaps more importantly, Calum Heath’s Billy is so adorably natural and adorable that we REALLY want the best for this broken family. When David watches a horrific shape stalk his son via Skype, we’re as scared as he is.
That being said, The Canal was sort of hit-and-miss for me. The pacing is inconsistent in a way that left me bored for far too long, but grabbed me when it amped the tension up to 11. It's not a groundbreaking tale, but with the lights off, I can easily see The Canal successfully creep into its audience. It has such a central heart to it that we genuinely fear how bad things may go down. While it didn't grab hold of me the way I was hoping, I was fully invested. That makes a huge difference.
No spoilers, but let me just say that just as you think the story has closed out on a somewhat typical note, there's one major gut punch in its final ending
I wanted to be under the spell of this film, but that just didn't happen
Horrible things happen in every old house
The stegosaurus is easily the best dinosaur
Nothing says crazy more efficiently than a bulletin board filled with newspaper clippings
In the realm of 2015 horror offerings, The Canal is good. It's well-acted, well-shot, and occasionally quite scary. I found myself a tad underwhelmed, in part because I'd heard such great things from fellow genre movie fans. Perhaps my expectations were just a tad too high. That aside, this is well worth your attention. Viva la 21st century.