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Non-Review Review: The Canal

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Ghosts are all around us.

As the opening scene of The Canal quite clearly states, the deceased endure long after their passing. Whether as images captured on camera or stories repeated in hushed tones, the dead haunt us. What are ghosts but the voices of history reaching out to the individual like some nightmare lodged deep in the collective unconscious? The “stone tape” theory of paranormal activity suggests that horrific events leave their mark, a blood stain that won’t wash out. What if that stain is psychological? What if ghosts are nothing but tales that echo in the darkness?


It is not an entirely original concept, to be fair. The idea of ghosts that exist as stories (or as media) is quite an old idea. In fact, one particular jump scare in The Canal owes quite a specific debt to Ringu, the iconic Japanese horror story about a ghost trapped inside a haunted video cassette. That scene is not the only parallel; The Canal centres itself upon a man working at the National Archives who finds himself processing old footage. No sooner has he discovered the gory details of a brutal murder in his home than it seems that those same ghosts come to life.

The Canal hits a few speed bumps in its final act, but – for most of its runtime – the film is a thoroughly compelling modern day ghost story. Writer and director Ivan Kavanagh wears his cinematic homages on his sleeve, drawing quite openly from directors like Roeg or Kubrick. The Canal is an unsettling and fascinating Irish horror film.


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