— SPOILER-WARNING! —
I usually try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but in this case, the thing that pissed me off about “The Canal” is a big fat spoiler, and if I can’t talk about that, I haven’t got much else to say about the movie. Thus, in this case, I have to do an all-spoiler review. Sorry about that!
I already talked about it a little in previous reviews, but to point it out once again: While I can accept supernatural things in horror movies, I generally prefer those that stick with a down-to-earth threat. One of the reasons for that is that one of the things I like most about horror movies, is the question “What would you do?”, that asks you to imagine yourself in the position of the protagonists. However, while I can buy into ghosts, monsters etc. within the context of a movie, I don’t believe in any of that stuff in the real world. Thus, as much as I might fear for characters that are threatened by some supernatural foe, the “What would you do?”-part of the movie stops working within that construct. Also: I simply find a real-world threat more frightening than vampires, zombies, monsters, and what not. Again: All of this is not to say that I can’t appreciate a well-done horror movie with supernatural elements. Hell, one of my favorite horror movies of all time is “The Shining”, for Christ’s sake. But if I can choose between a grounded, down-to-earth or an other-worldly explanation, I will always go with the former, because it’s just more real for me.
The problem, however, is that most movies don’t let you choose. It’s one of the things that drive me mad frequently with Stephen Kings – otherwise great – short stories. Whenever he offers a natural and a supernatural explanation, he usually doesn’t let the reader decide how he wants to interpret it, but offers up a definite answer; usually on the last page, and always going with the supernatural one. It’s supposed to be this “What the fuck”-twist ending when you think all the time “Dude, that guy’s crazy”, and then there’s this revelation “Whoa, he’s not!”. Which might work once or twice, but when you start doing it all the friggin’ time, it get’s tiresome. And even the best twist in the world can’t make up for the fact that it always ruins the story/movie for me a little. If you don’t fuck around with us and tell us right away that this is a story about ghosts and whatnot, fine. But if you give me the impression to actually trust me as a viewer to have a brain, to be able to think and to find my own explanation, and then in the last second you go and hit me with a twist that’s nothing but a big “Ha, and you thought you were so clever and had it all figured out, but guess what, that shit’s actually real!”-Fuck you, don’t be surprised when I get a little mad at you.
All of this goes a long way to explain why I didn’t like “The Canal” very much. For a very long time, there are two explanations offered for what happened on that fateful night. Either David did kill his wife, but simply cannot cope with it, because that brutal act was so out of his usual character. Or there actually are some ghosts in the house that either did the dirty deed for him, or at least made him do it. I saw this directly after “The Babadook”, and hoped that the movie either would go straight with the psychological explanation, or at least, like the movie before it, would allow its viewers to interpret it whichever way they want. And then there’s the scene where David shows Claire the tape in his bedroom. At first, I thought it was the definitive answer that there actually was some supernatural stuff going on, and thus was quite disappointed. But then they doubled back and actually made it look like there was nothing on the tape, and he only imagined all the rest. And while that alone still wouldn’t have made the movie a masterpiece, I was ready to praise it for that and give it a slightly-above-average rating.
And then comes the scene before the credits, with his son… which already was stupid enough by itself, a shocking twist for shocking twist’s sake. But it also made it clear (at least if we wanna rule out mass psychosis in a “like father, like son” kinda way) that there actually is some weird, supernatural stuff going on – which pissed me off to no end. I felt like Carrie when they dropped the blood on her, making it clear that it all was a hoax, and they made fun of her all along (Ivan Kavanagh really can be thankful that I haven’t got any telekinetic powers). Anyway. So, to sum it up: “The Canal” is a perfect example of how to ruin a fine, solid movie with a horrible ending. And for what? Just to have a twist and can point your finger at the audience, laugh, and say “Fooled you!”. I hated that ending, which forces a supernatural explanation down your throat. Screw the couple of decent scenes before that, the good performances from everyone involved, the nicely handled romance between David and Claire… in the end, it all doesn’t matter anymore. Not least because with that last scene, you lose the one thing that I liked most about it: The way it seemed to handle the fact that David simply couldn’t accept that he did what he did. Unfortunately, Ivan Kavanagh thought it was much more important to shock the audience with that twist in the end. Wrong call, dude!