THE CANAL (October 10th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
There really should be some kind of law regarding moving into a death house. Perhaps there is in some countries but I feel that people should be entitled to know if someone has been murdered in the house that they've just fallen in love with and have made an offer on. Because what's clear from the horror genre is that no good can ever come from it. In reality, it should make no difference – unless you genuinely entertain the idea of ghosts as a reality. I don't personally believe that spirits linger in households or that violent deaths have anything to do with this. But I guarantee you that if I found out that someone had been murdered in my home – or even worse – in my bedroom, then I'd have a slight sense of unease. Crazy really. It also depends on when something bad happened too. Discovering that something ghastly had taken place a decade or so after you moved in would seem especially unnerving. Well for some it would. But what if you found out that a mass murder had occurred 100 years ago?
Would that make it less creepy? Well the lead character in Ivan Kavanagh's The Canal (2014).
Rupert Evans plays David, a film archivist who views a period house by a canal (obviously) with his pregnant wife, Alice. The estate agent tells them that the previous owner was an old woman who went senile (LIAR!) and even though David gets a slightly creepy vibe from the place, they decide to buy it. Flash forward five years later and the three of them seem to be a happy little family but we soon come to realise that although they have an extremely cute kid, there is something slightly off about David and Alice's relationship. He suspects she's having an affair. Then one day when at work, David is sent a series of old crime scene videos that leave him shaken. Filmed in 1902, the films show the mutilated corpse of a woman being pulled out of the canal beside his house. Worse is to come as he realised that the brutal murder of this woman took place inside his current residence. He begins digging into the crime and the more he learns, the more it seems that some malignant spirit is haunting his abode...
I went into The Canal expecting and out and out haunted house movie. And whilst it is partly that, it's also a psychological horror, occult horror and even possibly a possession horror as well. You might think that the result is a rather confused mess but the elements all sit together quite nicely here. We're into the classic unreliable narrator territory here as well, with questions about David's sanity being asked throughout most of the film. Especially after a certain tragedy strikes. Evans plays it all in a rather understated but believable way. When he thinks his family are in danger, he moves them out of the house. He tries to tell a trusted co-worker and his child's nanny what is going on when things start to really ramp up. He asks his son if he has seen anyone in the house. He doesn't do that annoying thing and keep it all bottled up.
Whilst the film doesn't really serve up anything other than what you'd expect from this type of film in terms of scares and tropes (noises from the walls, hallucinations, nightmares, seeing things in mirrors), it deserves credit for employing old school techniques to create a murky and eerie atmosphere. It doesn't rely on jump scares but instead uses flashes of startling imagery and sound design to build up the dread. When we do see 'stuff' it is a bit hit and miss. Some of it is gleefully dark and nightmarish but there are times when it's a bit too literal and stark.
The Canal doesn't reveal the true extent and nature of its horror until quite late in the day and just like Bird Box, I am glad that they give you enough to grasp the key points but leave it open enough for you to ask some questions or use your imagination to fill in some of the blanks. Kudos for the last five minutes of the film or so, where it all feels like a horrible nightmare you once had. And that final scene...good grief.
The Canal is available to watch on Shudder.