Corridor, The (2011)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 04/02/11 11:32:14

"Cold, clever corridor."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2011 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: In most horror movies, insanity encroaches slowly, chipping away at the seemingly normal world that the filmmakers had built up at the start. To say that director Evan Kelly and writer Josh MacDonald go the opposite route with "The Corridor" would not be entirely true, but they do invert expectations enough at the beginning to keep us guessing at the end.

The opening, after all, shows Tyler Crawley (Stephen Chambers) brandishing a knife, his mother Pauline (Mary-Colin Chisholm) on the floor, and his friends Everett (James Gilbert) and Chris (David Flemming) scarred when they try to subdue him. It's a nightmare, but months pass. It's determined that Tyler inherited the same sort of mental illness his mother had, and seeing her overdose caused him to snap, but he's on medication now, well enough to leave the hospital. He, Everett, and Chris head out to Pauline's cabin to reminisce, with a couple other friends joining them - "Bobcat" (Matthew Amyotte), Chris's blading ex-jock cousin, and Jim (Glen Matthews), who's been living in another province with his wife. And when Tyler goes to scatter Pauline's ashes, he sees a strange corridor of light, where the snow and wind stop but voices start whispering to him.

It's a basic "cabin in the woods" set-up, but the main twist of knowing that one of the characters is mentally unstable going in - and how experience may make him better-equipped to deal with what's coming up, one way or another - is a good one. MacDonald stocks the cabin with plenty of tensions, both from Tyler's episode and going back to when the men were younger (Bob tended to bully Jim in high school), while Kelly and the cast manage to bring out the characters' long friendship. It's a good combination of new and old tensions for this corridor to exacerbate.

Making the tension work takes a good cast, and this one delivers in a nice, understated way. Stephen Chambers takes center stage as Tyler, and he does a great job of showing us a guy very much afraid of the potential mania inside him; even the opening scene has him somewhat panicky, even though he's the one with the knife. David Flemming plays his best friend, and plays it as a burden - it's not that Chris dislikes Tyler, just that everyone leaning on him is not something he signed up for. Meanwhile, Amyotte and Matthews keep their characters' animosity low-key, something they've mostly grown out of even if it is unresolved, and James Gilbert is just right as the guy who gives off the vibe of an alpha male, although that's not going so well with the new scar on his face and when he finds himself needing someone else's help.

Kelly takes all that and does a nice job of cranking the tension up. After the opening scene, he actually does well at bringing it down slowly, easing us into feeling the same sort of comfort and nostalgia that the guys do at the cabin before reversing course. At that point, things go badly quickly, and Kelly is good at giving the audience both weird, creepy moments and violent, bloody ones, and some intersections between the two that become a sort of black comedy. He also takes good advantage of the Nova Scotia setting, with the snow and wind omnipresent and the inside of the cabin dripping of nostalgia in a way that's both comforting and limiting.

(While the practical effects are executed well, the CGI for the corridor itself may actually be too subtle, sometimes blending too well into the snowy sky. During the Q&A, MacDonald mentioned that some more work may be done on that before general release. This isn't just about wanting flashier effects; it might make both the external threat and the first scene of the entire group in the corridor work a little better.)

It's a nifty, tense little movie - a very nice example of the cold making a thriller sting just a little bit more, on top of what feels like an unusually fresh pairing of characters and concepts.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.