Director – Ivan Kavanagh
Cast – Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Hannah Hoekstra, Kelly Byrne, Steve Oram, Calum Heath, Carl Shaaban, Anneke Blok, Paddy Curran, Alicja Ayres
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Irish horror appeals to me because regardless of the subject matter, the film / atmosphere is always dark and gloomy. Whether it be The Eclipse, Citadel, Grabbers, or The Canal, you can expect a dreadful haze to lurk over the abundance of dark shadows. This effort goes the psychological route and follows David (Rupert Evans), a film archivist who comes across an old reel from the early 1900s. In this reel a murder takes place, and what is even more haunting is it takes place in his current home. Soon after, when his wife disappears and is later found dead, David is seen as the prime suspect. He knows the house’s deadly past has something to do with her death, and with little to go on he must prove his innocence and that something sinister is at play.
The story sets the tone right away, and we see our first glimpse of pseudo-horror about 4 minutes into the experience. Fast forward five years later, and David comes across the terrifying film reel showing the murder that took place in his home back in 1902. It is after this that after five years of bliss, David starts to see unexplained occurrences that could only be of a supernatural origin. When his wife goes missing, and is eventually found dead, the lack of evidence for foul play clears David of suspicion, but he himself must get to the bottom of what happened to her. As he does this, he, and a local police inspector, begin to unravel startling revelations about what exactly happened that night. These revelations have the opposite effect that David was looking for, as they make him look guiltier and guiltier. This downward spiral starts to have a heavy effect on his relationships with those around him, including his son. The visions David is experiencing are forcing him to tear apart the world around him. He thinks he sees an evil entity in the room with his son, but in the end nothing happens and he looks like a loony man grieving very heavily over the loss of his wife. The constant question in the back of your mind will be whether or not he committed the crime. The horror can go both ways, but I personally wanted the death to be caused by a supernatural force in their home. Was I right? You’ll have to watch and find out.
Director Ivan Kavanagh does a great job of bringing his story to life. His atmosphere is top-notch, and it was responsible for giving me some slight chills on a few occasions. He achieves good performances from all involved, and I was most impressed with Calum Heath, who portrays David’s young son Billy. Heath was just the right amount of innocent, scared, curious, and everything else you would expect from a young boy with an interest in the world around him. It was good to see Rupert Evans back in the horror genre after starring in the awesome Asylum Blackout and supporting Ron Perlman in Hellboy. Kavanagh really impressed me with his execution of the scares. The scares are basic at first, yet still effective, and during the third act I was shown one of the creepiest scenes of 2014. It wasn’t quite on the level of The Babadook making his introduction, but if there is a runner-up prize it would probably go to the “wall” scene towards the end of the film.
Overall, The Canal is a moody, atmospheric slow-burner that is sure to please those who enjoy psychological horror.