It comes that time of year again where those without the need to spruce themselves up in all sorts of household waste to configure some sort of costume for a night on the town may just want a quiet night in, turning the lights off, ignoring those trick or treating nuisances and stick on a good flick in theme of the holiday: Halloween. It’s also a great time of year to stick out something on social media for others to offer up some ideas of horror films you may or may not have seen, hence forth the use of these next reviews. All of which i personally feel are vastly underrated but either mere fun for a good scare or simply a genuinely good watch that may need a little more recognition than what it did upon initial release.
Next up: The Canal.
Irish writer-director Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal fell completely under the radar. Scouring the databases of Netflix or the bargain shelves of Asda may lead you to this moody, horror gem, but other than that it’s the main reason word of mouth is such a strong contender in finding these genuine horror films that are worth a damn.
Film archivist David (Rupert Evans) has been having a tough time lately. He suspects his wife is having an affair with her co-worker, therefore stress amounts to feelings of worthlessness. At the same time, he’s handed a to-be-archived film reel of a brutal murder that take place in his house in 1902. Becoming more unsettled, he believes an otherworldly spectrum has infiltrated his house and is following him around.
When he decides to follow his wife one night and confirms his beliefs, she goes missing the next day. As all clues point to the husband, he struggles to find proof of his innocence as this mass entity makes itself progressively more known.
The Canal never boasts the most original plot. There’s only so far you can go with a ghost story nowadays. What compacts to culminate in something worthwhile, however, is how you go about it.
Kavanagh’s clear direction pays simple homage to the likes of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Don’t Look Now, primarily down to such visceral imagery and madcap nightmarish moments of complete upset. The film spirals into a fusion of dread and macabre visuals as lead character David’s psyche unravels to breaking point. The Canal’s a sure fire indie psycho-horror-thriller, but be forgiven if you think you’ll be walking away from this one unscathed.
Piers McGrail’s moody, utterly hair-raising cinematography balances Kavanagh’s ghoulish storytelling tactics, fusing together and creating something quite terrifying when it wants to be, and other times just completely bonkers. A subterranean finale completes the quota of what to encompass in a thriving, mind-bending nightmare.
The film brims with talents from around the country. Hellboy veteran Evans is an unhinged presence whereas his detective counterpart, played by Ben Wheatley favourite Steve Oram, is annoyingly progressive, blasting numerous red herrings and typically thwarting any ideals of ghostly happenings in Evans’ household.
This effectively creepy low-key horror is the kind of visually-intrusive nightmare (i’m throwing that word around a lot but this genuinely resembles one) that’ll unhinge your own personal psyche. It’s narratively ambiguous, transcends further come a twist ending that’ll make or break you and leaves you rather stunned.
A terrifically spine-chilling joint effort from director Kavanagh, cinematographer McGrails and music talent Ceiri Torjussen, all configuring their own visions of superior unease and portraying it through their own elements.
Dir: Ivan Kavanagh
Scr: Ivan Kavanagh
Cast: Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Steve Oram
Prd: AnneMarie Naughton
Music: Ceiri Torjussen
DOP: Piers McGrails
Runtime: 92 minutes