This Irish horror film serves its terror with a skill that leaves one breathless by the end of The Canal, a 2014 movie that does indeed cross three genres; horror, thriller and mystery. Written and directed by Ivan Kavanagh (Tin Can Man, The Fading Light) and starring Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Agora), Steve Oram (Sightseers, The World’s End), Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Bright Star, Albert Nobbs) and newcomer Kelly Byrne The Canal is cram packed with disturbing imagery and will haunt your dreams after watching it.
Film archivist David Williams and is wife Alice live with their son Billy in a mid terrace property that they picked out when she was pregnant with the boy. David has been watching some pretty disturbing film archives from 1902 and he learns that a horrible murder took place in their home. Around the same time he catches Alice in mid coitus with another man. Enraged he grabs a hammer and then seemingly blacks out.
On the way back home, he finds that hammer still clenched in his fist and he throws it in the canal. Stopping in a derelict public toilet he vomits and passes out. The next day he calls the police to report Alice missing. He becomes convinced that the ghost of the 1902 murderer killed his wife and he fears for Billy and the nanny’s life.
As the film progresses, his wife’s body is found and he begins a downward spiral that threatens his sanity and those around him. But is David really crazy or are the ghosts in his house going to kill him?
This film features some scenes that hard difficult to watch and there is not one moment where the audience do not fear for everyone that David (Evans) comes into contact with. He sees things and believes that the house he lives in is haunted by not just a murderer but children who were sacrificed.
The man is either losing his grip on reality or he is really being haunted by entities that wish to harm him, his nanny (Byrne) and his son (played quite well by young Calum Heath in his second film) Billy. It is not hard to feel that Williams has been driven mad by the archive footage he must view as part of his job and his wife’s death.
Director Kavanagh does a great job piling up the pressure on the audience until they feel just as disjointed as Williams. There is one scene which will make you flinch, if not jerk away from the screen, towards the end of the film. Its placement is perfect as by the time it appears the viewers nerves are shot.
The Canal is not overly gory and does not contain a lot of “jump-scares” but it delivers. Kudos to Sightseers star Steve Oram who proves that he can rock whatever oddball part he is cast in. His detective constable with the weak stomach is brilliantly off putting. The moment where he offers some acid reflux medicine to David is one such moment.
The blend of characters is perfect, Byrne’s pot smoking nanny, his boss Claire (Campbell-Hughes) and Oram’s McNamara all fit well with Williams who starts out so different from where he ends up. Streaming on US Netflix at the moment, The Canal is a real treat and a definite 4.5 out of 5 stars. Do not watch alone, in the dark or at night.
You have been warned.