Oct 22nd: The Canal (2014) ☆☆☆1/2

Ah, a real haunted murder mystery. Let’s get unreliable!

I really enjoyed this one, the first movie in a while that gave me a little scare (although only in the moment) and had a story that didn’t make me want to jump in a canal myself. Directed by Ivan Kavanagh, The Canal is available on Prime Video and features ghosts, demons, murder, crime, and some cool-faux historical film footage.

(Also, I like this movie poster way better than the one they have on Amazon.)

***THERE’S SPOIL IN THEM HILLS***

David (Rupert Evans) is introduced with the world’s longest face, and he barely smiles (does he at all?) through the movie. But he has good reason to look sad, since his wife, Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) seems to be cheating on him with her coworker. With Alice staying late at “work” almost nightly, David has only his young son, Billy (Calum Heath) and his work as an archivist to keep him busy.

Except, when David’s coworker, Claire (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), gives David a reel of film detailing a horrific murder that happened at his home in the early 1900s, in which a mother’s body is pulled form the nearby canal, covered in stab wounds, David starts seeing things that viewers can’t be sure are real. Visions of horror, short-lived but visceral, sometimes interpose themselves over a scene of Alice and Billy dancing in the living room, or David watching film reels in a lonely theater.

One night, David tells Alice not to stay late at work, but to come straight home. He follows her that day while Billy is at school, finding her with aforementioned coworker and possible affair, Alex (Carl Shabaan). David sees the two of them go into an unfinished house after work. After picking Billy up late from school and putting him to bed, David leaves him alone (bad dad! bad dad!) and lurks to the house to find Alice and Alex getting it on in one of the rooms. David picks up a hammer. The music gets tense.

But then he walks back down the road beside the canal on his way home, and throw the hammer into the canal before throwing up all over the place. He finds refuge in a disgustingly dirty bathroom, where a glossy-shoed figure creeps up to the door, and a face appears, whispering unintelligible words into David’s ears.

That night, Alice goes missing. After contacting the police, her body is found in the canal.

I really, really don’t want to spoil this one, because I really think it’s worth watching. I will say that David goes back and forth between seeing shadowy figures–Alice’s ghastly ghost; the glossy-shoed man; the vision of the father who killed his entire family in the house a hundred years earlier–and trying to convince everyone else that these things are real. Even when caught on film, the specters are invisible to anyone else.

The handling of David’s POV was deftly done, and I applaud the filmmakers for keeping me on the edge of whodunit the entire time. David’s erratic behavior toward nanny Sophie (Kelly Byrne) could be protective or dangerous; his obsession with keeping Billy close by is the same.

And the actual scare factor–aside from a family man who may not be keeping his family as safe as he thinks–is very well done, from ominous glimpses of the glossy-shoed man in webcams or film reels to Alice’s ghost corpse groaningly moving toward David’s camera as he closes his eyes.

Still, it isn’t a perfect movie. I think the depth of mysterious and slight lack of explanation is near perfect, especially since a lot of movies like these get a thick shot of “omigosh, this house is haunted because this thing happened and we have all the information in detailed newspapers and journals right here!” But I was still a bit at a loss when it came to the purpose of the very end, and what it meant for the radius of the evil in the movie. I won’t get into it, but I will posit whether, if a sacrifice is made in the middle of the highway and no worshipers are around to see it, does it count?

And that’s the last for the actual horror movies, unless you count The Haunted Mansion (which definitely terrified me as a kid.) Now, I do love horror, and I’m glad to have shared my opinions the last 23 days, but the last week of Halloween is all about those fun movies that get watched every year, and my opinions won’t be so much based on like/dislike as how I view the movies I love after watching them since I was a child. A lot of these, actually, I haven’t seen for years because they weren’t STREAMING ANYWHERE (!!!) and I wasn’t willing to rent them (poor college students, I’m willing money your way.) So I’m super excited!

See you later tonight, gremlins,

Abigail

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