THE CANAL, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, is an intelligent horror film that strategically peels back the layers to unveil frightening realizations that will have the audience gripping their arm rests and awaiting the unpredictable outcome. From Ireland, Writer and Director, Ivan Kavanagh, shows that when insecurity and betrayal become all consuming, so does desperation come into effect. THE CANAL reveals the haunted past while reflecting a mirror on our protagonist, who questions his sanity, while seeking the evil truth.
A film archivist, David (Rupert Evans) notices a growing separation from his wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) and suspects she may be having an affair. While sifting through murder film footage from the early 1900’s, David notices that the house featured in one of the films is the same house he and his family currently inhabit. The husband in the film kills his wife for committing adultery with the gory murder featured in full detail, which disturbs David, thus leading him to dig deeper into the truth behind the murders that occurred in the same house. The further he digs and views the sinister films, the more he witnesses the ghosts from the past appear in his present day life.
THE CANAL may not be the most original film that deals with a haunted house, but the familiar premise takes a 180 turn towards originality through Kavanagh’s brilliant use of sound. At the recent Tribeca Film Festival premiere, the writer/director informed the audience that sound, and manipulating sound, is his favorite part of the filmmaking process. That along with an effective music score, by Ceiri Torijussen, which is classical, yet aggressive captivates the audience into wanting to know more, yet prepares them for the worst to be unveiled. Every time David sits down to view another slice of film from 1902, featuring brutal murders of a man killing off his family, we see closeups of an old film reel, partnered with fine tuned mechanics of the innards of a film reel. The repeated use of this technique, incorporating a frame by frame process trains and captivates viewers to expect an advancement in the storyline, as we alongside David, are on a quest to find out the truth. This style of one eye open, with no good to come is what makes a compelling storyline.
Kavanagh is a fan of filmmakers like Brian De Palma, and favors films that leave room for the audience to dream, thus not providing all of the answers. He’d like people to want to view the film again as to perhaps see things they may have missed the first time, and come up with their own conclusions of the final outcome. He realizes that there are different interpretations of the film, admitting to having his own mind made up, but loves to hear other people’s views. In a way the audience is on their own investigation for the truth, like our protagonist, versus being a passive viewer.
Although Kavanagh didn’t go into great detail about casting the film, it should be noted that he assembled a stellar cast that will keep the audience 100 percent focused for the 90-minute horror fest. Led by Rupert Evans, who is featured in every scene, Evans plays the role of a man who is trying to remain sane, in paranormal situations, while showing some sort of constraint. Evans juggles this duality with a compelling edge, while demonstrating tremendous physicality throughout the entire film. Calum Heath, plays Billy, the oldest son of David and Alice, who quite frankly is brilliant as a son witnessing his father lose his marbles, but does what he’s told with a tingle of fear always present in his eyes. Other notable performances come from Kelly Byrne, who plays Sophie, the nanny who takes care of the children, but begins to question and fear David, and Steve Oram who plays, McNamara, the slobbish detective who offers a welcome comedic relief, while having it in for David from the get go.
THE CANAL is smart, unpredictable and will appeal to anyone who appreciates a good horror film with thriller tendencies. With great usage of jump cuts, sound, score, acting and a classic look to resemble those grainy 70’s films, THE CANAL should be a future cult classic. The film is now available for rent on iTunes below: