I have struck a balance in my relationship with horror films. I love them, provided it is October. I treat the month as a sort of Advent leading up to Halloween, but rather than bits of chocolate shaped like a Christmas tree, the prizes I unveil are usually spooky haunted houses and demons spewing all manner of filth. In the last few years, I’ve begun my ritual here at BIFF.
Unlike in years past, prior commitments kept me from Saturday’s “Midnight Passion”, when festival organizers screen three of the year’s scariest selections back-to-back-to-back. This meant I needed to choose, and choose carefully. Within seconds of starting the trailer for The Canal, I had made my decision.
The Canal features Rupert Evans as David, a film archivist who seems drawn to the more macabre side of his job. He and his wife have a son on the way, and they have found their dream home. This being a horror film, that home has a dark past, which David learns of when he sees 1902 police footage of a murder that occurred in his bedroom. Soon, his perfect wife has disappeared, David is hearing ghosts all around the house, and he fears for the safety of his young son. The film escalates to a gruesome conclusion, with no shortage of truly scary moments within.
The Canal is the scariest horror film I have seen in years. The soundtrack includes some spooky music, but the smash cuts and loud, ghoulish noises keep the audience from relaxing during the somewhat slow opening. The way the film gains intensity – from a shadow that I wasn’t entirely sure I saw early on to perhaps the most repulsive thing I have ever seen near the end – means audiences leave with the terror fresh in their minds. In the Q&A after, director Ivan Kavanagh said that he wanted to create a nightmare that got deeper and deeper, because there is no censorship in nightmares.
For horror movies to really work, viewers have to allow themselves to be transported to a place they hope to never see in reality; that suspension of disbelief is crucial to our enjoyment. When I review films, however, I have to attempt to maintain a critical eye, watching for the good and bad, the impressive and the awkward. By the time the credits rolled, The Canal had completely overwhelmed me. I spent a good portion of the 92 minutes in contorted positions, covering my mouth, skin crawling. The film has been slated for release in Korea next year, though no official date has been set. Though it likely won’t be October, keep your eyes peeled – this is a horror film that transcends seasons.