Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Ivan Kavanagh
Written by: Ivan Kavanagh
Starring: Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Steve Oram, Hannah Hoekstra & Carl Shaaban
When THE CANAL was announced, I shrugged it off as yet another supernatural movie that would fail to scare. This was because the plot sounded so been-there, done-that. Then I started reading reviews rolling in from trusted horror sites and I began to get interested. This sounded like it wasn’t the movie being advertised at all. The trailer further solidified my belief that this might be a genuinely unnerving mix of a ghost story and psychological thriller. To be clear, though I wasn’t exactly hyped up for this film, but I was interested in seeing if it was indeed clever or scary. In some respects, it’s a little of both. However, poor pacing, wooden characters, and an overly familiar formula make it an okay flick instead of a good or great one.
David is a film archivist going through a rough patch of life. It’s clear that his wife has fallen out of love with him and he suspects she’s having an affair. Things get worse when wifey turns up dead in a nearby canal. Her death is ruled as an accident, but David suspects that something more happened. After connecting past crimes to his home, David is convinced that his house is haunted and the ghosts killed his wife. This puts a strain on his relationship with his young son, his son’s nanny, and a police officer/former friend who is more than a little suspicious of David. A great way of summing up THE CANAL is saying that it’s SINISTER set in Ireland with ghosts replacing the demon.
THE CANAL does one specific detail in its plot very right. It keeps the viewer on edge as to if the ghosts are real or if David is just going off the deep end. I found myself constantly questioning things and actually getting frustrated with the film. If this movie was a person, I would have grabbed it by the shoulders and shaken it, all while yelling “Just tell me if he’s crazy or if the house is haunted!” This being said, the story itself isn’t anything new. Dusty clichés of both ghost stories and psychological head-trips are used. The big issue with the plot is that I didn’t really care about David himself. I was more interested in seeing where things went as opposed to rooting for David to discover the truth. The rest of the characters aren’t much better with the exception of the always welcome Steve Oram carving out a good character in the intimidating police officer hounding David.
There are a few genuinely creepy moments in THE CANAL as well. The problem is that they mainly reside in the last 15 minutes and the pacing here moves like a turtle high on Quaaludes. I have no issue with slow-burns, but the pay-off needs to make all the build-up worth sitting through. I didn’t think THE CANAL delivered on all the suspense it had promised. This is going to bore a lot of people. Not to make the obvious comparison, but SINISTER was a slow-burn and ran 30 minutes longer than this film with a similar storyline. It managed to stay terrifying all the way through and deliver in a nightmarish conclusion. THE CANAL does have an awesome final scene that’s very poetic to the story being told. I loved the ending, but hated how much time the film took dragging its feet to get there. Many will see it as too little, too late.
I might sound somewhat biased on THE CANAL, but I do think it’s overrated (kind of in the same way I think THE PACT and THE CONJURING are alright, but far from good or great). CANAL is a slow-burn mix of supernatural and psychological horror that enjoys toying with the viewer in questioning just what category it falls into. While you do find out in the final minutes just where the story lies and I did think those last two minutes were an amazing to conclusion, THE CANAL is just decent at best. Some will love it, but I have a feeling more will walk way saying “That was alright.” or plain disliking it.