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Release Date: October 10, 2014 (Limited)
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
MPAA Rating: NR

Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal combines the creepy imagery of a Japanese horror film with the paranoia of a psychological thriller to make one of the riveting horror films of the year. At its core, The Canal a fairly simple ghost story, not unlike Scott Derrickson’s Sinister, but there’s enough depth to the scares be effective and to make them feel fresh in the already-crowded market of haunted house movies.

The film stars Rupert Evans and Antonia Campbell-Hughes as David and Claire, a young couple moving into a new home with their son, Billy, played wonderfully by Calum Heath. David works as a film archivist who one day receives a series of police crime scene footage to review. To his horror, he realizes the house featured in the footage was his house, and the crimes that took place there were gruesome to say the least. As time passes, David can’t get this graphic imagery out of his head and becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind these crimes in order to prevent his family from enduring the same fate.

Further driving his paranoia, David begins to believe his wife may be cheating on him, which only exacerbates his quickly diminishing psyche. This is where The Canal begins to shine. As we see David start to come unhinged, his behavior becomes more erratic; he begins to encounter figures, who appear to be stalking him; and we’re never quite sure what is real and what is a delusion. Is David genuinely experiencing a supernatural element in his home that is endangering his family or is this all simply a delusion of a mentally disturbed individual? This is the dark framework for what will become and excellent horror movie.

This is not a gimmicky, by-the-numbers found-footage film, nor is it a jump-scare-laden ghost story, although there are jump scares, and it is a ghost story of sorts. This is a slow-burn thriller that builds tension with every passing minute and culminates in a shocking and graphic finale that left me completely stunned. The sometimes-surreal imagery is consistently unsettling and never feels cheap or unnecessary. All the scares are appropriately timed and feel deliberate in their placement within the narrative.

The Canal is the type of horror film we need more of these days. It subverts expectations while still delivering a terrifying experience with an ending that will certainly spark discussions. There’s no hand-holding, and it’s open for interpretation. For those who don’t want to delve too deep psychologically into the film’s dark subject matter, there’s still plenty of entertainment when taken at face value. This one gets a high recommendation and will certainly land on my Top 10 horror films of the year.


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