Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Cast: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rupert Evans and Hannah Hoekstra
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: May 8th
Up until recently the term “Good Irish Horror Movie” was something of an oxymoron. While comedy-horror Grabbers has its fans, and last year’s genre entry Citadel was something of a quality anomaly, but you’d be hard pressed to find any defenders for the likes of Wake Wood, Dead Meat or Shrooms. For the longest time it appeared as if Irish film-makers just couldn’t get a handle on genre film-making, but now we can say with great relish that The Canal is an Irish horror film to be proud of.
Horror fans will probably have a great time jigsaw’ing together the movie’s many influences, as film-archivist David (Rupert Evans) discovers some turn of the century news footage, with one of the reels revealing that his home was the scene of a brutal murder committed by a husband upon his adulterous wife. Turns out that David’s own wife is also cheating on him, and she’s soon found dead at the bottom of the canal near his home, with David the prime suspect. Now believing that his home is haunted by the murderous ghost of the previous tenant, David begins to understandably question his own sanity, which has his voice-of-reason assistant Sophie (Kelly Byrne) and creepy wannabe love interest Claire (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) concerned for his well-being, as well as the safety of his young son.
So you’ve got elements of Sinister, Berberian Sound Studio, Cat People and others in the story, as well as some specific nods to What Lies Beneath and a lot of J-Horror, specifically The Ring in one stand-out scare moment, and The Canal wears its heritage proudly on its sleeve. Stylishly lensed by Piers McGrail (a huge talent to watch in Irish cinematography) and tensely scored by Ceiri Torjussen, writer/director Ivan Kavanagh knows how to attack the audience’s nerve endings with atmospherics, the glossy Hollywood sheen of the visuals and aurals made murky by the jagged editing and grimy plot-twists. Even as style begins to overtake substance, such as the scene set within the World’s Worst Public Toilet ™, the nightmarish and terrifying set-ups result in some proper spine tingling and jump-out-of-your-seat scary pay-offs.
While there are some annoying niggles – similarly to fellow Irish movie Patrick’s Day, the cop character (here played by Sightseers’ Steve Oram) seems to have wandered in from a different genre – it all builds smartly and swiftly to a satisfyingly creepy conclusion. It appears we’ve finally got horror down, Ireland! Next up: Sci-Fi?