Fantasia 2011: ‘The Corridor’ combines high-concept horror and psychological depth

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The Corridor

Directed by Evan Kelly

Written by Josh MacDonald

Canada, 2011

Tackling a difficult premise is often the kiss of death for first-time filmmakers. Many get lost in their “high-concept” vision, losing track of the human element that is needed to engage an audience. Though not impervious to the flaws symptomatic of these kinds of films, The Corridor succeeds where it counts as it focuses on a conflicted friendship disrupted by mental illness.

The film opens with a scene of domestic terror. Three young men break into their friend’s house because they are worried for his safety. The house is torn to shreds and as they make their way upstairs they discover the body of his mother lying face down on the floor. As they approach her in order to see whether or not she is injured or worse, their friend Tyler bursts out of a closet and attacks them.

Flash forward some time, and Tyler is being released from a psych ward, his condition controlled by pills. Not having been allowed to attend his mother’s funeral, his friends bring him to an isolated winter retreat, where they spent time at as children, in order to pay tribute to her. Tensions run high, though, and Tyler’s friends fear another breakdown.

Any camaraderie that existed in the group as children has long faded and their friendship is held together by a sense of duty rather than loyalty. Each man’s sense of personal disappointment is channeled into passive aggressiveness and macho posturing. The characters have a complex set of relationship scruples and have a unique repartee with each member of the gang. This careful balance seems to be held together by the presence of Tyler. Each happy memory or good feeling seems to be cemented in his character. His violent outburst becomes a catalyst for their downfall as they all try to come to terms with the changing nature of their feelings towards each other. At a time when he needs the most support, they can’t help fearing him. As their friendship dissolves beyond repair, one feels the most for Tyler, who desperately tries to hold this whole world together.

The film’s “high-concept” hook comes into play with the mysterious corridor they find in the woods. The only certain thing about it is that it doubles in size each time someone enters and it renders electric-magnetic devices useless. The design of the corridor is appropriately sparse; working on a low budget, they could have easily been overambitious and risk alienating the audience. When we first encounter the mysterious box, we barely even realize it’s there. It’s snowing lightly but something does not look quite right. Around the time the character begins to realize something is amiss, so do we. The restrained design is necessary to the film’s success and only contributes to tension and horror.

The corridor itself is not just a gimmick; it raises the stakes and breaks down important emotional boundaries. The importance of the discovery is not lost on these men who immediately realize the possibility of profiting from novelty. These ambitions only exasperate their vices and insecurities as the shit hits the fan.

The Corridor is, like most first features, flawed, and suffers from an unfortunately weak conclusion. It loses focus of its characters somewhat and becomes lost in over-ambitious montage. In the end, much of the tension that had been built quite effectively is lost. Also – and this is probably symptomatic of the low budget – some of the make-up (especially as related to hair removal) is distractingly fake. Little things like that are usually easy to overlook, but it is constantly present throughout the film and it’s difficult to merely let go of.

Overall, though, the film is well worth recommending. Strong performances and a strong sense of conflict really sell this small horror film. Nova Scotia is proving itself to be a fierce competitor in the Canadian genre landscape and are a province to look out for. The Corridor is a great portrait of the end of adolescence as a group of adults must come to terms with their failed dreams and learn to move on.

– Justine Smith

Visit the official Fantasia Film Fest website

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