Film

Tribeca Film Festival: 'The Canal'

Horror flick The Canal slowly builds malaise into an excellent and unsettling genre piece.

The Canal

Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Cast: Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell Hughes, Hannah Hoekstra, Steve Oram, Kelly Byrne

The official summary of The Canal is a bit inaccurate and may spoil a part of the film (official description here). So I thought to create a revision (using some of the same language): A film-archivist views footage turn-of-the-century news report about a man who slaughters his family in his present-day home. When David's marriage dissipates in a flash, the ghostly murderer rises from the murky waters, casting David's life into an unfortunate downward spiral that threatens the lives of everyone around him.

With that out of the way, I am comfortable revealing some more of the plot of the film. But horror fans don't really need to read any more as The Canal is a disturbing film that fits the classic horror mold and might be best watched knowing less.

In the slow-building first part of the film, The Canal introduces David (Rupert Evans), his son Billy and his elegant wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) whose activities at a party lead him to suspect her of adultery. At the same time, David's archivist counterpart and friend Claire (Antonia Campbell Hughes) asks him to review newsreels and, by chance, one is a document of a grisly murder in his home done by one William Jackson.

After discovering Alice and her lover in embrace, David stumbles home and, before he succumbs to panic, rage and helplessness, glimpses a shadowy figure beside the canal. The next morning, when his wife doesn't turn up, police find her body in the canal's waters. David becomes the suspect, but he is convinced Jackson has arisen and struggles to prove it to the authorities while exorcising the murderous spirit now unshackled in his house.

With every sinister moment, viewers will want David to fulfill the protective duties of a father, even if it means he suffers, so his guileless son survives unscathed. And Irish writer and director Ivan Kavanagh saturates the shadows of The Canal with an inescapable, lurking horror that doesn't make survival seem promising. Startling cinematography styles are mixed into the murky atmosphere to shock and produce screams resulting in an excellent work. The Canal is a haunting, old-school horror film which questions how much truth exists in madness.

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