The Canal Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
DVD released by Park Films
Written and directed by Ivan Kavanagh
2014, 92 minutes, Not Rated
English Premiere on 22nd August 2014
Rupert Evans as David
Hannah Hoekstra as Alice
Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Claire
Steve Oram as McNamara
Kelly Byrne as Sophie
Premiering at Tribecca Film Festival earlier this year, The Canal is Irish director Ivan Kavanagh’s latest flick and marks his return to the genre following his multi-award-winning, Patrick O’Donell-starring chiller, Tin Can Man (2007). This time, Hellboy star Rupert Evans takes the helm in this haunting psychological thriller.
Film Archivist David (Evans) and his pregnant wife, Alice (Hannah Hoekstra), move into a lovely country house by a canal. Five years later, David stumbles across historic film footage documenting a series of grisly murders that happened in their house, but dismisses them as frivolous – that’s until he finds out Alice is having an affair just moments before she dies in an unexplained accident, and from then on begins encountering strange supernatural happenings. A suspect in the investigation but convinced someone or ‘something’ else is to blame for his wife’s death, David delves into the house’s past to find answers and discovers an ancient evil lingering in its walls that he can’t escape.
It’s an enigma that pulls at the heartstrings as David’s world falls apart: as well as desperately trying to make sense of the nightmarish phenomena that torment him, he is emotionally overcome as he battles bereavement, accusations and the responsibility of being a single parent.
The ‘whodunnit’ police investigation takes the sidelines to David’s own, Steve Oram (Sightseers) providing a few light quips as a blunt, no-nonsense cop in what’s otherwise an intensely sombre journey through David’s eyes. The film is mostly a one-man band in its latter half, though, and Rupert Evans nails the role as family man, doting husband and, ultimately, the helpless victim. David’s lack of assurance and stability is refreshingly realistic, and Evans is a credit to the role.
Style earns the film a great deal of brownie points. Clearly a product of many influences – Hideo Nakata and Nicolas Roeg of the most notable – The Canal throws up dead-creepy, haunting imagery that lingers unnervingly on the screen and can’t help induce a few spine shudders. A slew of looming shadows plague the house’s corridors, and quick, intermittent cuts to character’s flashbacks give it an effectively uncomfortable and illogical sense of chaos and disruption; the chilling score works hand-in-hand with the imagery’s tone, and splashes of colour against the dark, dingy house are aesthetically striking – Don’t Look Now (1973) eat your heart out!
While resembling many traits of a classic Irish ghost story, The Canal heads down an ambitious mishmash of supernatural, demonic and psychological themes, too. Is this the work of a menacing ghost? Is David being subjected to an evil curse? Or is he simply losing his mind?
Though probable solutions to the mysterious happenings are raised early on, the plot gives lead to a final twist that never really materializes. Kavanagh perhaps takes the easy – somewhat familiar – way out as imagery and concepts hit an abrupt, uncharted dead-end, yet The Canal still reaches a satisfactory conclusion that benefits from a fittingly macabre final scene. Don’t go expecting a happy ending, now.