The horror movie genre is one which has underwent tremendous change in the last twenty years or so. Directors like James Wan and Eli Roth have ushered in a lot of flexibility in the genre. Everything from torture porn to haunted house films can easily find an audience in today’s market.
The Canal is a small, low-budget horror movie, which at first glance doesn’t fall majorly into any one of the horror sub-genres. The narrative follows David (Rupert Evans) and his wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) as they move into a new home, just off a rural canal. David, a film historian and archivist, has some found footage come into his possession where he learns that his house was the scene of a grisly murder. The couple gradually begins to grow apart as David’s suspicions escalate that his wife is cheating on him. When Alice is found dead, just after her affair with a client is disoovered, David is left alone with their young son Billy (Calum Heath). As David gradually looses his grasp on reality, it becomes almost impossible for even the audience to tell where reality begins and ends.
Rupert Evans gives a stunning performance as the tormented David. Evans is probably best known for the role of John in the superhero fantasy film Hellboy, and more recently as Frank Frink in the Amazon drama The Man in the High Castle. The role of David is a tricky one, and runs the risk of being unlikable in the wrong hands. In his portrayal, Evans injects a needed fragility and wounded masculinity into the character. There is a tremendous depth to David, which makes his sympathetic even as his world spins out of control.
The film’s take on horror is a bit uneven. As the narrative continues on, the feel of the movie fluctuates between the simmering tension of the more subtle, jump-scare based horror to the over the top, gross-out feel of “Well, I’m not going to unsee that!” The narrative is far more effective when it’s crafting jump-scares, and is working with the horror of the unseen or unknown. There are moments in the film which almost feel too much, and filmmakers should have gone with a less is more mentality.
Treatment of the horror aside, The Canal has a stellar visual look to it. The filmmakers, perhaps aware that David is a film archivist come at the visual aesthetic of the film with the eye of a film scholar. They show willingness to play with different looks and aesthetics to shape the feel of the movie.
The Canal is an interesting unique, independent film. The plot and look of the film are fascinating, and the depth of Rupert Evans performance contributes greatly to the scope of the film. Fans of the horror movie genre should check it out.
My verdict: 🌟🌟🌟🌟