The Canal (2014)

The Canal is a creepy little Irish shocker, that boasts bucketfuls of suspense and atmosphere but is ultimately a little disappointing.

David works in a film archive centre with his softly spoken colleague Claire. One day she asks him to check out some new reels that the centre have acquired and David is startled to learn that the films contain violent images taking place in his house, more than a decade earlier. To add to his mounting stress and paranoia, he sees his wife in the throes of a passionate affair with an artist and the following morning she’s mysteriously disappeared, naturally leaving him as the police’s main suspect. When she turns up dead, floating in the nearby canal, Davids grip on reality weakens and his world starts to crumble.

The Canal is pumped full of atmosphere, similar to that of Kill List and The Borderlands, which is, perhaps, unsurprising given Robin Hill‘s involvement in all three projects. Some jarring jump-cuts aside, Hill‘s editing works masterfully to give the film a grimy feel and to add uncertainty to our protagonist’s sanity. It’s a film that’s steeped in darkness and the bleak cinematography and direction both manage to reflect this really well.

Despite mastering a deep feeling of unease throughout, the director Ivan Kavanagh sadly falls into the trap of relying on many of the standard tropes that we’ve become used to seeing in this type of film and so there are few surprises in terms of how the story develops. With the exception of a couple of well placed scares and some disgustingly unforgettable imagery in the final throes, The Canal doesn’t tread much in the way of new ground.

However, it does boast some wonderful performances. Rupert Evans, while not necessarily providing us with a likeable main character, does fit the cuckolded, newly grieving husband and father to a T. His son, played by Calum Heath, manages to do what few child actors can; and that is to act his little socks off whilst also being genuinely endearing (The Babadook could have taken a few notes here.)

On the flipside is Antonia Campbell-Hughes, whose sole technique seems to be to whisper her lines almost inaudibly and manages to turn a potentially intriguing sidekick into a simpering drip. Steve Oram‘s cynical cop is brilliant, but almost feels like he’s from a different film entirely. His northern accent and black humour seem ill-judged considering the tone, but he does provide occasional levity amidst a rather depressing set of events.

The Canal is a film I wanted to like. It had many elements that I look for in a horror film, and for the most part, it pulled them off adeptly. Ultimately though, some elements were simply too disjointed and too bogged down in unending misery for it’s own good, so instead of being memorable, The Canal just manages to be a decent watch. Not bad but not great.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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