THE CANAL. 2014. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY IVAN KAVANAGH. STARRING RUPERT EVANS, HANNAH HOEKSTRA, STEVE ORAM, CALUM HEATH AND ANTONIA CAMPBELL-HUGHES. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This Irish horror film was shot near where I live in Dublin so straightaway I kind of felt a special bond with it. I’ve always loved the canal which is only a short walk from my house. I’ve walked the length of it many times and it’s a gorgeous walk. The kind of house the family in the film live in is achingly familiar to me too. I’ve been in houses like it many times and I love them. I’d love to live in one. When I win the lottery, haha…
I think this is one of the first Irish horror films I’ve ever seen. I’m by no means an expert on the subject but I don’t think we’ve made too many of them over here. We’ve never spawned a John Carpenter or an Alfred Hitchcock of our very own, so I was interested to see what THE CANAL was going to be like. I enjoyed every second of it, though I found it a tad confusing at times.
Here’s the deal. Rupert Evans plays David Williams, a film archivist who works just down the street from my house. Honestly! He’s jolly attractive in a stubbly, just-fell-out-of-bed kind of way. His wife is Alice, a beautiful Dutch woman who clearly doesn’t know how lucky she is to have bagged a man like David because she has an affair with a work client who’s not half as good-looking as her husband. The ungrateful hussy…! I’ll have him if you don’t want him, was my thinking on the whole matter.
David is gutted when one dark night he catches the cheating pair together having sex. Not long afterwards, Alice’s lifeless body is dragged out of the nearby canal. The hard-boiled, ginger-haired detective assigned to the case thinks David killed her. David swears it wasn’t him but the ghost who’s been haunting his house, the ghost of a man who brutally murdered his wife and children in 1902 in David and Alice’s very house…!
Naturally, the cops don’t believe in the existence of the ghost, but what can they do? They keep a close eye on David while he runs frantically here and there trying to prove that there is a murderous ghost in his beautiful old house. In the process, he frightens his small son Billy half to death, along with Billy’s babysitter Sophie and his own co-worker in the film archives place, Claire.
Then, one night, things come to a grisly head in the dark, filthy tunnels underneath the garden that lead straight to the canal. Let’s just say that there’s someone down there who’s most anxious to make contact with David. Maybe even two ‘someones…’
I absolutely adored the black-and-white olden-days photos of the murder victims. No, I’m not a ghoul, just a keen amateur Ripperologist, haha. The footage of the ghost that David manages to catch on camera is actually pretty terrifying and freaked me out. There’s a twist at the end that’s rather interesting and also one hell of a shock which I won’t tell you about in case I spoil it for you.
The makers of the film were a bit cheeky though, I thought, sticking what I’ve come to call yet another Little Grudge Girl on the film poster. You know, the girl in the long white dress with the long black hair covering her face…? Watch the film and you’ll see what I mean. It’s false advertising, if you ask me, and just tacked on to bring folks in off the street to watch the film. Hey, I should know, it worked on me…!
I must add that I was quite open and amenable to being scared on the night I went to see this film. I’d just finished reading the book of THE EXORCIST for the first time ever, so I was somewhat of a gibbering wreck to begin with.
I was one of only three people in the darkened cinema who’d turned up for this particular showing. As usual, I was sitting down the front with my bag of Sour Crazy Skittles. (Three euros and twenty cents for a bag of sweets…? That’s the real crime here, people!) There were two people sitting way behind me. I could just about make out their two pale faces in the gloom. When the film ended, however, only one other person besides me left the room. What happened to the third person? He or she hadn’t passed me at any stage during the screening and there were no doors at the back of the room for them to have nipped through. The only two doors were on either side of me. Spooky, eh…?
Oh and, also, there was a haunted urinal in the film so when I left the screening, dying to pee, I was afraid of my living life to use the empty cinema bathroom.
“Um, you won’t lock me in if I go to the loo, will you?” I asked the cinema attendant, who was busy locking up. I was literally the last patron to leave the place that night.
“We’ve never locked anyone in yet,” he quipped. Nonetheless, I nearly peed myself in my haste to get out of their admittedly clean but completely deserted bathroom. Well, I didn’t want some murderous madman from the flippin’ Victorian era squinting over the top of the cubicle at me with my Bridget Jones-style knickers down around my ankles, did I? The very thought…!
I had a deliciously scary night off the back of this film, what with one thing and another. I’d call that a job well done.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: