I am a tad late for The Canal bandwagon, but I’m glad I finally made it! I was a little leery at first by the generic cover art of the film- one version showing a “Ring” movie-inspired, looking girl with her face covered by her hair and the other on Netflix showing a ghost-like girl with lifeless eyes reaching towards the viewer. It leaves a lot to be desired but I have read good reviews on this Irish film so I finally decided to give it a go. I am so glad I did because The Canal exceeded all of my expectations and then some.
The opening scene leads you to believe this will be a Ring inspired film with its creepy video montage, but this is not the case. Far from it, actually. David (played by Rupert Evans) is a film archivist who suspects his wife, Alice, is cheating on him and obsesses over thoughts of infidelity. He follows Alice one night and witnesses his worst nightmare followed by another nightmare that is more evil than he could ever imagine. Without going into much detail, his wife has disappeared and David may have witnessed the potential murder or possibly committed it himself. Did David actually see what happened that night? Or it is a manifestation of his warped insecurities?
While looking into the disappearance of his wife, David also discovers that his home is the location of multiple murders from the past. David’s fanatical personality leads him to believe these murders and his wife’s disappearance are linked by uncanny similarities, though the investigator on the case (played by Steve Oram from Sightseers) thinks he is crazy and is his main suspect. David’s dreams and fears portrayed on film hold some very disturbing imagery as the audience tries to decide what David’s involvement in all this is. Even though David has a lot of negative personality traits, you can’t help but root for him and hope he isn’t the bad guy. He is a surprisingly likable and relatable character despite his flaws, which can sometimes be a difficult feat for filmmakers. But director, Ivan Kavanagh, pulls it off seamlessly. Once this realization hit me, I knew this movie would be fantastic.
I like it because you are constantly questioning what is going on, what is real or imagined, or even if this is a supernatural film or not. I like movies that keep you guessing. So often horror movies start out interesting and then lose ground with stunted development. The Canal, on the other hand, keeps a steady pace and is actually scary. I even jumped in my seat a few times. A frightening atmosphere can make or break a film and is also something that is lacking in a lot of modern horror films. The atmosphere created in this film is conductive to fear with the grimy alleys, graffiti walls, blinking lights, and quick flashes of brutal imagery that come out of nowhere in grainy black and white footage. This is one of the better horror films I’ve seen in a while that has gotten little recognition. This slow-burn psychological thriller is captivating from beginning to end and I think it will get better with subsequent viewings to catch all the clever nuances and layers to this distinctive and moody film.
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