THE CANAL (Ireland/UK/16/93mins)
Directed by Ivan Kavanagh. Starring Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Hannah Hoekstra, Kelly Byrne, Steve Oram, Calum Heath.
THE PLOT: Film archivist David (Evans) is moving into a new house with his pregnant partner, Alice (Hoekstra), and isn’t entirely comfortable, it seems, with the new abode. Five years later, and their little kid, Billy (Heath), is talking about monsters hiding in the dark.
Back at The National Archive, and co-worker Claire (Campbell-Hughes) has some old police footage to check out. David sees their new home, in 1902, when a man murdered his wife. Add to that a growing suspicion that his hot wife is a major object of desire amongst her co-workers, and perhaps David’s growing paranoia is somewhat justified. But is it truly ancient?
THE VERDICT: Kavanagh’s baby has been getting the Dublin filmmaker all the right kind of attention, with rave reviews in the US leading to some decent box-office, and now some real, top-of-the-range Hollywood work. Not that the quiet workaholic is about to let Tinseltown blind him from his mission to make good work, having already proven himself a cut above the rest with The Tin Can Man (2007) and The Fading Light (2009).
Here, there’s no doubting Kavanagh’s skills, both as a writer and a director, THE CANAL swaggering with an air of majesty and menace that is such a rare treat in horror. If THE CANAL ultimately falls a little short of the Polanski, Kubrick and Lynch comparisons, it’s still a superior slice of psychological horror. And Kavanagh has a lot of fun tripping through the genre’s rich, red fields.
Review by Paul Byrne

The Canal
Review by Paul Byrne
4.0Superior psychological horror
  • filmbuff2011

    Made with the support of the Irish Film Board, The Canal is a psychological horror film from director Ivan Kavanagh (The Fading Light). It relies on familiar horror settings and characters, but done with a dark moodiness that sets it apart from the more obvious mainstream likes of Insidious. Film archivist David (Rupert Evans), his wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) and their young son move into a new house near a canal. At a party, David notices Alice apparently flirting with a client. He suspects her of cheating, so he follows her one evening to an abandoned house where she meets up with the client. Backing away in disgust, he later sees her struggling with an unidentified man by the canal. Alice disappears and cop McNamara (Steve Oram) suspects that David is involved. But David thinks this might have something to do with the house’s checkered past and the ghostly figure he keeps seeing in the shadows… There’s a lot to recommend about The Canal. It’s got a strong central performance from Evans as a man driven to the edge of sanity by the disintegration of his family. Kavanagh’s intelligent script holds your attention throughout. He obviously knows his horror beats and throws in a few nods towards J-Horror films like Ring. In this case, a long-haired ghost crawls out of a hole in the wall while old film footage is projected onto it. However, the film stumbles in the midsection involving nervy babysitter Sophie (Kelly Byrne). Byrne really overdoes the acting in these scenes and consequently feels out-of-place playing against the more muted Evans. However, it builds towards a satisfying conclusion with an extra, unexpected shock at the end that shows confidence on the part of Kavanagh. From the title alone, The Canal sounds rather nondescript for a horror film but deep down it’s a dark and enjoyable ride that does what every proper horror film should do: unsettle and scare you.***