The Canal

09/01/2019 15:35

Film: The Canal

Year: 2014

Director: Ivan Kavanagh

Writer: Ivan Kavanagh

Starring: Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Hannah Hoekstra



This was a film that I first heard about when I got into listening to podcasts. It was on an episode where they were talking about films from Ireland for St. Patty’s Day. I didn’t hear about this film when it came out so I was intrigued to finally give it a viewing. The synopsis is a depressed and stressed film archivist finds his sanity crumbling after he is given an old 16mm film reel with footage from a horrific murder that occurred in the early 1900’s.

We start this film with David (Rupert Evans) and Claire (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) as they’re talking to a group of students in an auditorium. To get their attention, they ask if the kids what to see a ghost, as they’re going to show them archived films from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. He tells them they’re ghosts as the footage is of people who have passed away. It is an interesting way to start this film with what happens and I never thought of this concept either. I think it kind of sets the tone.

David is married to Alice (Hannah Hoekstra). They have a son, Billy (Calum Heath). Every morning David walks his son to school and they pass a public bathroom. It is full of graffiti and quite dirty. Billy thinks there’s a ghost in there, but David tells him there’s not. They continue on.

The couple goes to a party for Alice’s work and has a babysitter, Sophie (Kelly Byrne) come to watch Billy. Things take a turn where David is suspicious of a man who talks with his wife at the party. His name is Alex (Carl Shaaban) and he thinks there’s something up. There’s also an awkward moment where a co-worker is kind of rude to David as well.

At work, David is given the task of watching some older films to be archived. They’re old police footage and it interests him to see that it is in their house. Apparently, there was a murder back in 1902 where a man killed his wife after he found her having an affair. He stabbed her over 50 times in a rage and threw her body in the canal by their house.

Things take a turn when David is suspicious of his wife and her co-worker. He decides to follow her and he sees she’s having an affair. He goes into the public restroom to throw up and a man comes in. As David attempts to leave, he sees this man attacking his wife by the canal. In the end, she’s pushed in. David goes home and showers. When his wife doesn’t show up, he goes to the police. He starts to lose his mind as they search for where she could have gone. He learns some dark truths about her and the house they’ve been living in. The question is what really happened to Alice and is David really seeing the things that he is or is this all in his head?

Now I wanted to go slightly vague here on the recap as I think there’s a good mystery. The idea of this film is something that I really was done for. I like that David is a film archivist, because it gives him a reason to accidentally learn about what happened in his house. The movie also has some interesting editing, as we see some events revealed to us as if David is actually watching a film. I thought this was an interesting way to show us things. Since this is a possible descent into madness film, we get those reveals of the truth and I dug the different way of showing it.

Going from there, I do love the mystery here. Alice is murdered, but the police think it is an accident. I like that David has to decide to agree with them or try to figure out what really happened. He’s convinced there are ghosts at play and I like seeing all of that supernatural. There’s an aspect here though of is there really ghosts or is this David just losing it? This is kind of a movie trope though that is a bit overplayed at times. I don’t think this falls into that if I’m honest, especially with how things end.

There are some plot-holes that I had though. An example is that there is a hammer found in the canal that ends up belonging to Alex. The police state that the death of Alice was an accident, but then they find a hammer with fingerprints on it. There were no talks of blunt force trauma, so why would they be looking still in the canal? On top of that, in water the fingerprints would be washed away so there’s no way that would happen. This was something that when I heard it made me question.

I want to move next to the pacing of the film, which I think for the most part, was good. The film has a good mystery. I really wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on here and figure out if this is a scorned lover or a supernatural thing happening. The problem becomes though we don’t get a lot explained. There’s a picture that is discovered that kind of gives a bit of an idea, but the film kind of just loses itself. It is such a whirlwind of David seeing things that I think it loses it way a bit. It doesn’t ruin the film, but just something that I had a slight issue with. The ending was something that is quite dark and I dug that.

That moves me next to the acting. I thought Evans was really solid. I believed him in his grief, but there’s also a bit of madness to him as he digs deeper. I thought it was well casted role here. Campbell-Hughes is fine as someone trying to help him. There’s also the vibe that she is interested in him as well. Hoekstra was gorgeous. I did hate her character for her cheating, but it doesn’t mean she should die. It did get a reaction out of me which I always want. Steve Oram was solid as McNamara, the detective who is assigned to the case. He’s mistrustful, which really does fit the character. I thought Byrne was fine, Heath was alright for a child actor, he didn’t really blow me away. I’d say the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.

As for the effects of the film, I thought that they looked good. I’m assuming there’s probably a combination of practical and CGI. I didn’t really see any of it that took me out of the film. The use of shadows was something that I really liked and the looks of some of the ghosts were as well. There are a lot of good cuts though that really helps to build that up if I’m honest. The film was shot very well also.

Now with that said, I’m glad that I finally got around to checking this film out. It has an interesting premise of a man discovering the series of grisly crimes that have been committed in his house. It makes you wonder that if he is the one that actually is the killer or is something supernatural here. Or if he did it, are the ghosts partially to blame as well? I do think that it is paced in a way where the mystery does build, but it does kind of lose its way. The acting it thought was fine throughout, I had no issues there. The effects were pretty solid and the soundtrack doesn’t necessarily stand out, but it is one that fit for what was needed. I don’t think this is a great by any stretch, I thought it was above average and worth a viewing in my opinion.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10