Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Ivan Kavanagh
Cast: Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Steve Oram
If you’re looking for an interesting viewing experience, The Canal is a safe bet. It’s got a great number of qualities working in its favor, but it also suffers from a few very elementary problems. It’s been hailed by a number of media outlets as a must-see film, and one of 2014’s finest efforts. While it’s certainly a good, entertaining film, I can’t in good conscious call it a 2014 standout. Again, it’s a fine film, maybe even a bit better than fine, but it has its issues, and one of those issues makes for a pretty major dilemma.
See, The Canal is profoundly predictable. We’re talking really, really, really predictable. As the conflict unfolds, we know exactly what’s happening. And what is supposed to be a mystery is never even remotely near a mystery. It’s all so blatantly obvious that it kind of throws the viewer off. If you’re not solving this film inside of 30 minutes, there may be something wrong with your cranial device. It’s about as cryptic as a Dora the Explorer episode.
Now, that said, virtually every other element of the flick absolutely rocks. Rupert Evans (whom you’ll likely recognize from Hellboy) is awesome as male lead David, reminding us that this is a dude who needs to take on more roles, especially in the genre (if you haven’t seen it, look into Asylum Blackout, an amazing indie in flick in which Evans is featured). In fact, this guy could easily walk away with an award for this role. And he gets fine support from Antonia Campbell-Hughes (who was awesome in Storage 24), Steve Oram (who surpassed awesome in Sightseers) and Kelly Byrne, a trio that all emerge eager to shine. The ensemble is stellar, to truncate things. The cinematography is also impressive, and the editing is great, offering a few unorthodox techniques (like the frequent chops in brief single view scenes) and engaging transitions. Nothing in terms of special effects is abused and the setting of the story only empowers the visual enhancements we do receive. It’s just a very crisp picture, as a whole.
But that mystery element hurts things. Had this movie offered a big twist, or managed to better deceive the viewer, it would no doubt rank as one of the year’s best. But it doesn’t. That’s the one area that goes – strangely – neglected. But again, that does not bury the potential for a rewarding viewing experience. I’d happily watch this one again. In fact, chances are, I will. It may actually make for a solid pairing with Asylum Blackout; load up on my Rupert Evans fan-dose.
Ghost stories often feel a bit drab, and too familiar to stimulate. The Canal, while a tad formulaic, isn’t one of those movies. You’ll likely be a little disappointed with the predictability of it all, but it’s a high quality film all the same. So the deal is simple really, don’t pick this one up expecting some monumental revelatory finale. rather, embark on this journey knowing that you’ll see a movie made by a group of individuals who really cared about the production, and took strides to deliver fans the best film possible. With that mindset, you should find this one quite gratifying.