The Canal (US/Ireland/2014)
UK Release: 14th November at Leeds International Film Festival (UK Theatrical TBC)
Directed by Ivan Kavanagh
Brief Synopsis: David, a film archivist, begins to become unsettled as he receives a piece of film footage showcasing his house as the setting to a brutal murder and when, to make matters worse, he suspects his wife is being unfaithful.
A mildly interesting film with nods to filmmakers as distinct in method as David Cronenberg and Michael Powell. Ivan Kavanagh has clearly made a big effort to tap into what is arguably one of the most thrilling categorisations of film genre: the psychological horror film. However, the film is a pure synthesis of the genre; there is nothing unique or exciting to take away from it, it is a mash-up or rather an unwritten homage.
Initially, one has nothing to sink his or her teeth into; every action or technical consideration is entirely run-of-the-mill. Although, it is in the final act where The Canal comes more durable, reaching for its own culmination, but eventually (and predictably) climaxing into a pit of cliché. The film does manage be wholly intelligible in the portrayal of a man who is innocent to his conscience and downright guilty to his actions. However, this very psychological reasoning is what should be innately ambiguous for a more chilling effect. In fairness, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and ones taste for the psychiatric criminal. One could even argue that all contemporary films showcasing a criminal are aiming for the psychiatrically impaired individual; after all, the medium of film does lend itself nicely to psychological underpinnings.
The performances are good. The young boy Billy (Calum Heath) adds a great dimension to the film in his especially provincial and tender release to lighter moments, of which are delightful and give weight to Rupert Evans’s mediocre recital. Whilst Evans, as David, is steady in his progressive decline into what is likely to be insanity, there is no real load to the ins and outs of his character, no real study of his space for the audience to become attached. The supporting cast is minimal, but each brings their own Irish flavour to the screen. The detective, played by Steve Oram, is matchless in his openly laid-back and high school approach to what should be very demanding proceedings on his behalf.
A final note of appraisal: the essence of celluloid film and the power of its being is toyed with (David is a film archivist who might just be possessed by film), and as we have seen before, celluloid film lends itself quite nicely to the uncanny.