Directed by Ivan Kavanagh
Owing as much to Salvador Dali as it does David Lynch, Tin Can Man is a surreal look at how one man’s day goes from bad to worse. After Peter’s (Patrick O’Donnell) girlfriend dumps him and his job security is threatened by his boss, Peter’s quiet night at home, alone, is interrupted by a man with a moustache named Dave (Michael Parle). At first his presence is innocuous, asking to use the phone to help square away an accident outside. Once the call is over, however, the man refuses to leave, engaging Peter in an endless series of questions and making Peter very, very uncomfortable.
This is where Tin Can Man shines. Parle, whose small moustache and seemingly jovial yet sinister nature are exceedingly creepy and downright weird, is the sort of neighbor you try to avoid in the hall every time you see him. As he presses on with his odd, disjointed line of questioning, Peter becomes more and more frightened, unable to discern what Dave wants, a theme that pervades throughout the majority of the film. It’s Dave’s ambiguity that drives the suspense; we know he’s bad news, but we don’t know what exactly he plans to do with Peter, and we won’t know until the end. He’s an exceedingly creepy fellow whose disturbing nature is enhanced by the film’s stark and minimalistic aesthetic.
Shot entirely in black and white, Kavanagh’s film utilizes extreme close-ups and fisheye lenses to instill in the viewer a sense of claustrophobia, mirroring the panic that Peter feels in the presence of Dave. During their initial meeting the camera swings back and forth as Dave leads an interrogation, causing the viewer to become disoriented; it’s ambitious in a way, relying on a quick back and forth to establish a sense of dread, but the strength of Parle, combined with Kavanagh’s unique aesthetic, makes this scene pivotal in establishing just what is in store for both Peter and the viewer.
Unfortunately, the decision to shoot as he did backfires several times throughout, as you’re often left wondering what’s going on due to a lack of lighting. Flashlights serve as the only source of light in several pivotal scenes, with much of the viewing area shrouded in darkness. While it serves to enhance the sense of claustrophobia and fear Kanavagh is trying so hard to instill in the viewer, it often comes at the expense of what made the first half of the film so interesting.
Sadly, it’s at around the halfway point where the film loses its momentum. The slow burn of the first half, wherein we don’t really know the point of Dave’s visit or his intent with Peter, quickly and without warning fizzles out. Peter finds himself in weirder and weirder situations, thus causing the film to stray farther and farther away from the dialogue-driven fear that propelled the first half. It can be likened in a way to the criticism lobbied at Pontypool, a film that relies heavily on dialogue to elicit fear before changing direction. Tin Can Man is a frightening film, but its weak second half tends to cause the impact of the first half to diminish rather quickly. It’s lofty in its ambition, but it fails to live up to its potential.
2 1/2 out of 5