In The Canal, Rupert Evans (Hellboy) is a film archivist who’s sorting through century-old police footage when he discovers crime scene film that was shot at his house. Soon he begins seeing things, hearing things. The world begins to unravel as his wife goes missing and a strange man appears around his house. Is there a ghost in his house or is he going crazy?
There’s a reoccurring concept in certain horror movies that interests me: images that, upon viewing, either plant a curse on the viewer or else drive the viewer insane. The Ring is a fine example of this, a film about a videotape that kills the viewer seven says after they watch it. John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness plays with the concept as well, with special interest in how the written word can drive someone mad. John Carpenter’s later Masters of Horror piece Cigarette Burns is another example. Sinister has a demon hiding in the images of film. And so on.
What interests me about it is what it says about us, the filmgoer: we are watching the horror film expecting shocks, disturbing sights, hauntings, madness, etc. Of course we never expect a movie to drive us mad or put a curse on us, but still, we’re signing up for a movie that we know means to disturb or frighten us. To some lesser extent, perhaps we’re hoping for an experience like the characters that discover haunted videotapes. A step removed from the actual horrors, we still nonetheless hope for a scare. I’m not sure what that says about horror fans but it’s got me thinking.
This line of thought also calls to mind Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, 8mm and the underrated horror pic Vacancy, all of which involved murders put on film for the entertainment of sickos. The question of ‘Who would watch such filth?’ leads to, ‘And why am I watching this?’ Because, though fictional, it’s still a movie about murders.
The Canal inspires some thought but it also conjures some really good scares. This is a frightening, disturbing film. I’ve heard some complaints that it’s boring but I don’t agree. It has a deliberate pace, sure, but it worked for the film, playing like a slow walk through an insane asylum. Expertly crafted and featuring some imagery I won’t soon forget, The Canal is an underrated horror film that fans of the genre should give a look. Casual horror viewers should be warned, though: it’s a dark, dark movie.
Tomorrow: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. “The first Iranian Vampire Western.” How’s that for a tagline?
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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