Monday, November 7, 2011

THE CORRIDOR - Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011: Horror in a remote cabin, and no babes? What gives?

The Corridor (2011) dir. Evan Kelly
Starring: Stephen Chambers, David Patrick Flemming, Glen Matthews, James Gilbert, Matthew Amyotte, Nigel Bennett, Mary Colin-Chisholm

RATING (out of ****) **1/2

By Greg Klymkiw

So here's the deal. If I'm going to watch five people in a remote cabin being haunted by some weird shit that turns them into psychopaths, the last thing I want is for all five of them to be guys. Sorry. Call me crass. Call me a redneck. Call me uncivilized. (Just don't call me Shirley.) What I need are babes. Yes, babes. Members of the female sex. Three is best. Two will do. One, I will settle for. But NONE? Nada? No babes?

This, my friends, is a problem. A big one. Why? Because this is a low budget horror film set in the middle of nowhere and seeing as the body count is clearly not going to be high, the stew needs a bit more than potatoes - if you follow my drift.

What we have here are five friends. One of them went nuts. Blood was shed. After time in the loony bin, the nutbar gets out and his buddies decide to congregate for a weekend reunion in the whacko's family cabin. Here, we see them rekindle past glories, dredge up old grudges, realize that their lives are essentially not what they could be and soon they all discover and experience a mysterious force deep in the bush that creates feelings of elation which eventually transform into a desire to kill.

Okay, this is not bad. But again, we have to spend time with five loser guys (some more macho than others) and for much of the film's running time we listen to them alternately whine and be sensitive new males (save for the two who are a bit more loutish). We don't even get some good, old-fashioned homoeroticism. I mean, seriously - if you're going to force us to watch five young loser guys in a cabin for ninety minutes, can we at least get some nice homo action? In fact, the central friendship in the picture had a lot of possibilities to go into the territory of Hershey's Chocolate Highway - but no, it's all sensitivity and no action.

The screenplay by Josh MacDonald is not without some excellent writing. Thought and care have obviously gone into the film's structure as well as character and (some of) the dialogue. The emphasis upon atmosphere is something I generally appreciate in any horror film, but I seriously believe the script was: (a)not encouraged to adequately exploit and/or push the envelope on what it sets out to do and, more importantly, (b)was green-lit too early. Based on the finished film, it's at least two drafts (including one genre makeover) and a polish or two behind where it really needed to be.

That said, there are a few moments of genuine grotesquerie with the occasional appearance of the whacko's whacko dead Mom. She's old, and not really a babe (and, uh, dead), but she's delectably creepy and again, another lost opportunity. If we're going to have five loser guys alone in the woods - fucked up by some mysterious force and getting visitations from some old demonic lady, could we, perchance get some kink worked into the proceedings?

So, no babes, no homo action and no sex with dead old demon ladies.

What do we get? Well, director Evan Kelly moves the action briskly, elicits fine performances from all the actors, sets a suitably creepy tone with a solidly deliberate pace, serves up a few decent visceral jolts and stretches his low budget admirably. The snow-packed isolation of Nova Scotia is also rendered with suitable panache. We are, thankfully, blessed with an appearance from the legendary Canadian character actor Nigel Bennett, but given he's the only one who appears in the under-populated setting, we know he's not going to last long.

I'm sure the screenplay was developed with all the right intentions - to focus on psychological and atmospheric horror rather than bloodletting, but there's something ultimately square about focusing upon such drab, unexceptional male characters. A couple of them veer delicately in the direction of Neil LaBute Lite, but that's another problem. When one crafts a modestly budgeted film like this - Lite is NEVER the way to go.

Given Canada's reputation worldwide for its offbeat perversion in the world of indie filmmaking, its possible the makers of this low budget Canadian genre picture thought they were departing from the norm in a fresh way. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Movies like this need some kind of crank. Good intentions are never enough. In fact, good intentions are too often the middle name of many Canadian films and it's the movie's downfall. One sits in the theatre watching the movie, hoping that things are going to amp up narratively. Alas, they never do.

"The Corridor" was unleashed during the magnificent Toronto After Dark Film Festival (2011 edition). It has been purchased by AMC Networks' IFC Midnight.

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