Stars: Matthew Amyotte, Nigel Bennett, Stephen Chambers, David Fleming and Mary-Colin Chisholm.
Writer: Josh McDonald
Director: Evan Kelly
Running time: 98 mins. (Screening at Fantaspoa 2012, May 4-20)
Some effectively chilly atmospherics and a bracing blast of third act gore will leave genre fans buzzing over Canuck mind-bender, The Corridor. Debutant director Evan Kelly perhaps shows a little too much confidence in Josh McDonald’s wordy script and the young cast’s ability to pull off a dialogue-heavy set-up, but his handling of cabin-in-the-woods paranoia and its icky outcome is top notch.
A strong pre-credit sequence sets an edgy tone that carries the film for its first half hour. Tyler (Stephen Chambers) has flipped out (we don’t learn why), leaving his mother dead and his friends Chris (David Patrick Flemming) and Everett (James Gilbert) bearing the physical cost of subduing him. Upon Tyler’s release from hospital, the group of five buds (now including Matthew Amyotte’s big-lug Bobcat and Glen Matthews’ book-nerd Jim) head to a log-home deep in the Canadian wilderness to reconnect. These early scenes ultimately build character-based drama and pay off as tension unfolds, but the lads shenanigans and occasional confusion as to how to behave around Tyler gets a bit one-note.
There’s a group-dynamic trope that too often presents itself in ensemble films such as The Corridor – how did all these intrinsically different young men become friends in the first place? But Kelly takes as a basis the unlikelihood that any of these guys would really hang out with each other and turns it to his film’s advantage. Late one night, Tyler finds an energy field pulsating in the forest; once inside, strong instincts bubble to the surface, culminating in a vision of his slain mom. When he tells the other four, they all want to experience it, only to find themselves gripped by a violently escalating fury that each member directs towards another. The shut-in stand-off and subsequent gruesomeness represents the film’s best moments; Kelly’s staging of the dramatic downward spiral of each character, and the acting troupe’s pitch-perfect interpretations, makes for white-knuckle cinema.
Essentially an alpha-male pissing contest but with knives and guns, Kelly makes the most out of the psychological-horror element; some commentators have favourably compared it to Stephen King frighteners, in particular the boys-own mental adventure of Dreamcatcher and the isolated setting of The Shining (the snowbound psychosis that drives John Carpenter’s The Thing is a good comparision, too). Conceptually, The Corridor is no more ambitious than a solid Twilight Zone episode, but it convinces for most of its running time. The FX-heavy ending is too high-falutin’ for a low-budget work, but the overall impact suggests Kelly is a genre director worth watching.