Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Corridor (2010)

Tyler (Stephen Chambers) has just been released from a mental institution where he was treated after a violent paranoid episode following the suicide of his mother.

His best friends - Everett (James Gilbert), Chris (David Patrick Fleming), Bob (Matthew Amyotte) and Jim (Glen Matthews) - are going to spend his first weekend in freedom together with him in his family's cabin in the woods. There, cracked trusts are supposed to be mended and the ashes of Tyler's mother released into the wilderness.

But when Tyler goes out into the snowy woods alone to release the ashes, he encounters a strange phenomenon he at first believes to be a hallucination. There is something milky and peculiar floating in the air that seems to build some kind of (see-through, walk-through) walls of what may be a room but soon enough grows into something akin to a corridor; Tyler also sees his dead mother.

Fearing a return of his illness, Tyler is showing his friends what he has discovered. To his own surprise, they also see the phenomenon. However, exposing yourself to whatever it is the men are exposing themselves to inside the corridor might not be the best idea, for while the corridor may open the doors of perception to them more authentically than any acid trip, it also fastly increases everything that keeps them apart, and drives them violently insane. Ironically, only Tyler - thanks to the wonders of psychopharmacology - is somewhat resistant to what is happening to the men. But will he know how to close the door he helped open again?

Evan Kelly's Canadian horror film The Corridor is another of those independent productions made in the the last few years that mix the sensibilities of non-genre indie filmmaking with lovely elements of the capital-w Weird. I can't help but imagine these movies to be the children of Larry Fessenden, even if they don't necessarily are made under the umbrella of that man's production company Glass Eye Pix.

As much as I do like a bit of gore and senseless violence from time to time, I'm glad there's an actual throughline of indie films not mainly involved with zombies, slashers and torture (well, and strippers, obviously).

As I already said, The Corridor is heavily inspired by the Weird literary story of the supernatural, and will as such probably be even less a film for everyone as other movies are (yeah, I know, saying a film's "not for everyone" is a truism, but sometimes it still needs to be said). It's somewhat cryptic - though not so cryptic I'd agree with the reviewers who call it "impregnable" or something of that kind -, slow-moving and really not willing to stop and exposit and explain to viewers who can't keep up with its ideas; though I'd posit that it's more unwillingness to engage with the film on its own level than any actual flaw of the film that could stop anyone from understanding it.

At its core, this is a film that uses the ab-natural (Hodgson's term sometimes just works better than the old "supernatural", I think) to explore the rifts, the small and the big lies that unite and divide a group of friends, and to try and find a metaphor for the complexities of guilt. However, as with any good tale of this sort, The Corridor's strange phenomena are never just metaphors, but always keep a layer of the truly inexplicable and mysterious, so that the film never turns into the movie equivalent of an algebra problem.

I'm not quite as convinced by the film's dramatic resolution as I am by the rest of it. It's not so much the conception - for the resolution we get makes as complete sense as these things ever are supposed to make - as it is the execution that puts me off a little. Not in a concrete way where I could point at a particular part of the resolution and say "this doesn't work", but on a very vague and emotional level that is generally unhelpful when one is trying to write up a movie. The ending just doesn't feel quite right.

However, having an ending that feels "not quite right" as only point of criticism surely isn't a big problem for a feature debut by a young director working in a field that is - see also, Sturgeon's Law - full of crap, and I can still recommend The Corridor to anyone who hasn't been turned off by this rather evasive write-up.

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