Monday, 23 February 2015

Horrors of 2014: The Canal (2014)

The Canal (2014)
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Starring: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rupert Evans, and Hannah Hoekstra
Running Time: 92 min

  Over the years of doing this, I've discovered that Ireland has put out a number of fantastic films that are pleasantly terrifying, so I when I heard that this was from the isle, I was very excited to see it.  Although, the director and the cast are not new, I'm not familiar with most of their work, so this should be a fantastic introduction and I'm looking forward to it.

  Film archivist, David and his wife, Alice are a happy young couple with a bun in the oven and are looking for a house to buy for their budding family.  The house that they are looking at is perfect but David thinks he sees another person walking into the backward, so he tries to catch up but this leads him into a empty backyard and a open sewer grate.  He closes the gate and dismisses what he saw, then heads back inside to see if Alice loves the place as much as he does.  Which she does and the young couple buy the house and live happily ever after. Not.
  Five years later, real life has set in for David and Alice and the strains of their relationship, work and having a child have really tuckered them out.  They're still in love, as far as David knows but it's hard to find time these days to be affectionate.  Luckily they're going out for the evening to Alice's work party and this should be fun.  But it isn't.  David is pushed aside to the bar by Alice's boss to discuss business with clients and while he's at the bar, David notices a man acting very familiar with his wife.  Touching her arm, caressing her shoulder and other harmless but intimate gestures while they chat.  After the party, David talks to Alice about this gentleman but she says that he is just another one of her clients and they leaves it at that.
  Meanwhile at work, David is watching some interesting footage from a 1902 murder case, which to his surprise, involves his house.  Apparently, the previous, previous, previous owner murdered his cheating wife by stabbing her an ungodly amount of times and then he killed their two children.  After seeing this footage, David starts having terrible nightmares about the house, the crime & his family and starts seeing and hearing strange things around his house.  However, these things do not detour his investigation on his wife and her "client".  He spends an afternoon following his wife around and eventually follows her and her gentleman friend back to his place.  Upset but determined to find out what is going on, David sneaks inside the house and finds them having sex on the floor.  David quietly picks up a hammer... but leaves right away, throwing the hammer into the canal.  Luckily there is a public washroom on that street, which he gets into quickly and starts to vomit.  While vomiting he is approached by what looks like the spirit of the man who killed his family in 1902 and David is told that "the Master wants to see you", then he blacks out.
  David is awoken by his son, Billy's school wondering when is he going to pick his son, cause it's really really late.  David rushes over to the school and David brings Billy home, puts him to bed and waits for Alice to show up but she never does.  So, David goes down to the police station and reports her missing.  The police officer lets him know that he is a suspect and they go through the usual police investigation.  The officer asks him if he knew about his wife having an affair, but David denies it and eventually they find Alice's body in the canal.  Fortunately to the medical examiner, it look like an accident, she tripped and drowned, so David is not kept for any more questioning.  Unfortunately, as time passes David starts seeing more and more ghostly figures and he starts believing that they want to kill him and Billy!  Can David escape the terrifyingly ghostly figures that torment him and his family or are they just figments of his deranged imagination?

 This was a very solid ghost thriller with some very delightful displays of deadly dementia.  Writer/Director Ivan Kavanagh (The Fading Light, Tin Can Man) skillfully puts together a fascinating spooky tale about a man fighting to save himself and his son from what he believes are supernatural causes.  As the film progresses, the specters seem relentless and to the outside world, David seems to be hanging on to his sanity by a thread.
  Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Asylum Blackout), who plays David is excellent and carries the film well as the lead.  Evans's character seems to be spiraling with a variety of demanding emotions and with Evans expertise, he is able to project these emotions exceptionally across on the screen without any issue.  He makes the character believable and therefore the film more enjoyable.  
  The ending is twisted and visceral and epilogue doesn't pull any punches.  I have seen a number of scary films over the years, so I love it if a film make me flinch.  There is a scene during the end of this film, that made me wince and turn away, so bravo to you Mr. Kavanagh! Also, the epilogue is one of the most chilling and creepy endings I've seen for a while and I could easily see a sequel for this.

  There are a few minor things that didn't sit right with me, like that the film starts to drag a bit in the third act because the focus shifts from the ghost story to David and Billy's relationship.  I understand that this is necessary and important piece of the overall story, the dynamic between them, but the story really seems to slow down just before the third act.  However it's not for too long and once the the final act begins then it's full steam ahead.
  Also like most horror movies, the police are always so many steps behind and in this film it's no different.  Don't get me wrong, Steve Oram (Sightseers, The World's End) is great as detective McNamara but it would have been nice to see him or have more a of police presence around the David character after he was cleared by the medical examiner, to let him know that they are unconvinced of the accidental death theory.  Still the police eventually get on the right track, but something like this could have created a little more tension.

  However, those are just very minor things in an overall really good movie and definitely something to check out if you like really violent ghost mysteries.  The story is very strong, there are some great bloody moments and the the ending will make your skin crawl & it might make you turn away from the screen.  So, if you're looking for a film with spooky specters and demented dads, then this should be at the top of yer list.

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