Review: The Canal (2014)

2014/08/22 18:21:37 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

In the upcoming indie thriller The Canal, Irish filmmaker Ivan Kavanaugh cooks up a slow-burn mystery with a supernatural twist that also packs a few guttural punches and does a great job of maintaining a pulsing sense of tension. The story may not necessarily be the most original horror yarn you’ll see this year, but it’s Kavanaugh’s keen ability to craft startling visuals and execute a flawless sound design that elevates The Canal beyond many of its similarly-themed peers.

The Canal follows a film archivist, named David (Rupert Evans), whose personal life begins to unravel right around the same time he stumbles upon footage from a notorious murder case from the early 1900’s. The footage reveals that his very own home was the setting for a mass murder of a young family, much like his own. As he begins to suspect that his wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) is having an affair with a co-worker, David starts to put together all the details of the grisly crimes that happened in his home years earlier, causing him to begin to doubt his marriage and his sanity and wonder whether or not evil forces have returned to his house in order to claim more victims once again.

As a fan of the filmmaking process, I geek out over movies like The Canal  (or even last year’s Berberian Sound Studio), where you can tell a director also shares that passion and pours it into every little detail of their project. Kavanaugh, also clearly influenced by filmmakers like Dario Argento and Brian De Palma, does a nice job of establishing himself as a visual storyteller, often utilizing a blood-soaked palette to play off the mounting tensions and David’s deteriorating mental state too.

The Canal also has a few solid scares to it, but the true payoff for horror fans is in the film’s third act, which boasts probably the most memorable gross-out moment I’ve seen on the big screen in some time. It will stick with you long after, regardless of how you feel about The Canal overall (seriously, it’s been a month since I’ve seen the film and it’s an image that still feels like I just saw it yesterday- fun stuff!).

There are also a handful of great performances in The Canal. Evans, as the film’s lead, is engaging and does a lot with his character even when he’s doing something as simple as looking at footage or sharing a meal with his character’s young son. Both Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Steve Oram (of Sightseers fame), who play supporting characters here, also provide The Canal with two wondrous performances, helping to fully flesh out Kavanaugh’s mystery and provide the film with a nice sense of humanity and humor.

Some fans may be turned off by The Canal’s slow-burn methodology, but, as a fan of films like Diabolique or even Rosemary’s Baby, I can always appreciate when a director wants to take his audience on a journey rather than just throw a bunch of scares at them haphazardly. Kavanaugh’s ability to make viewers doubt our own perceptions as to what’s really happening with David and the mystery surrounding what is going on inside the doomed abode couples nicely with his protagonist’s own descent into madness. David's obsession over putting the mystery together makes for some truly great moments of suspense.

Movie Score: 3.5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.