Directed by Ivan Kavanagh (interview here)
The fear of the inevitable is just as frightening as the actual scare itself, I believe. When you can see what the action will be, whether it’s an instantaneous reaction that elicits the fright or something that takes its time to simmer – you know it’s coming, and it STILL gives you the foreboding presence of dread that hangs until the scare slams into you. With director Ivan Kavanagh’s slow-creeping startler The Canal, nothing is as creepy as what’s laid out in front of the viewer… like I said, you can see it coming, and it still gives you the heebies.
The movie could possibly be one of the best deterrents for the cheating spouse since Glenn Close decided to steep one of the Easter Bunny’s relatives in Fatal Attraction way back in the day. David (Rupert Evans) is a quiet and reserved film archivist who goes about his job, almost in a mundane fashion. His reason for such a lack of motivation at work is the persistent feeling that his wife, Alice (Hanna Hoekstra), is having a lurid affair behind his back. Then again, you can’t really have it behind your back if virtually ALL the signs are in your face (i.e., text messages in the middle of the night and that glance from the other guy when he’s speaking to David’s wife while at a party).
Alice is a stunner, plain and simple, and she doesn’t go too far out of the way to hide the fact that she’s interested in her latest client, Alex (Carl Shabaan). The inclining worries about an adulterous wife, coupled with the crime footage from a murder back in 1902 that David has been glossing over at work, have sent his mind into overdrive.
Oddly enough, the home where the murders took place looks exactly like his family’s home, and upon further review, we learn it is the same place, providing the groundwork for a very intense series of events that are almost certain to unfold right in front of your eyes (see paragraph 1 above).
The supposition grows so heavily that David decides to follow his wife one night when she’s “working late” – even so intent on catching her in the act that he forgets to pick up their young son at school. After witnessing the unforgivable, David passes out in a grimy bathroom while having a nightmarish vision, and the next morning he returns home to find his wife is gone.
An instant investigation begins into the whereabouts of his wife, and after she’s found floating in a local runoff canal, he is immediately fingered as the numero uno suspect – I mean, who else could it possibly be, right? Her murder is deemed “accidental”; yet, David refuses to believe that arbitrary ruling, as does a very skeptical police detective (Steve Oram).
David’s worry now focuses on the safety of his young boy and the babysitter who looks after them – he believes that whatever (or whoever) killed the family way back in 1902 is without equivocation the reason for his wife’s death, and it could still be residing in his house behind the walls. The mood is dark and dismal throughout the entire film, especially the last half, acting as a one-two combo of hopelessness and despair for the characters involved. David is a shattered soul with an innocent son who is now without a mother. Jeez, I even felt remorse for the detective because the mood was so heavily wrought. Kavanagh’s use of photography is simply beautiful – one supreme shot is the view inside Alice’s casket as you can hear the first shovelfuls of dirt rain down upon it – brilliance.
If I had to (unfortunately) look for a negative in all this creepy goodness, it would be the cross-worked circuitry that is the movie’s final acts. You’re twisted and turned in about a dozen different directions, left to wonder which way is up, even after a shocking conclusion. (Be sure to look for a nod to The Ring in one latter scene.) Aside from the roadblock that impedes a certain touchdown on this field of fright, The Canal is a movie that should definitely be watched with the lights off, not necessarily to enhance the scares, but to better immerse yourself in the darkness that these characters so radiantly display even through the opacity.