The Corridor Review [FF 2011]

This review was originally published during Fantastic Fest but has been re-published to coincide with the film’s theatrical release.

This “cabin-the-woods” horror pic out of Canada gets off to a good start, but ultimately suffers from a weak, overly vague ending. The Corridor does offer some subtle chills and a fresh concept reminiscent of The Signal, winning screenwriter Josh MacDonald an award for Best Screenplay at last month’s genre film festival Fantastic Fest.

Central character Tyler Crawley suffers a psychotic break at the outset of the film. He’s discovered by his best buds hiding in a closet, while his mother lies dead on the floor. Not only is he slightly out of it and ranting strange things about doorways, but Tyler is wielding a knife and he stabs one of his friends in the hand before another finally tackles him.

Fast forward about ten years. Tyler is getting out of the loony bin and he wants to get together with his old friends to give his mother a proper funeral, and to scatter her ashes. He arranges this reunion weekend with his childhood friends out at a remote cabin in the woods.

Naturally, the boys have all grown up and apart, and they’re not too trusting of their old friend Tyler. The reunion gets off to a rocky start, with former football star turned balding family man Robert picking on former geek turned wealthy businessman Huggsy. The playboy/waiter/cool guy Everett is barely concealing his hostility for the crowd, and Tyler’s best friend Chris is trying to keep everything going smoothly.

After a night of partying and re-living old times, Tyler wanders into the snow-bound woods alone to scatter his mother’s ashes. Suddenly a white light engulfs him, and he realizes he’s in some sort of box with walls of a translucent watery-looking substance. There’s a weird sound inside it, almost like radio white noise or electrical transmissions gone awry.

Tyler thinks he’s losing it again. He starts to see strange things in the woods, like his dead mother. Unsettled, Tyler convinces his friends to come out into the woods to see it for themselves.

At first nothing happens when they arrive at the spot Tyler first encountered the box, but suddenly the box appears around them, except now it’s bigger; not so much a box anymore but a corridor. Inside the corridor things are slightly different then outside of it, and soon they are all experiencing nose bleeds and a euphoric feeling of clarity and power.

Tyler is just happy he’s not going insane again, but his friends are starting to behave strangely concerning the corridor. They all decide this discovery is going to change their lives.

Events start spiraling out of control after this first encounter. The friends grow homicidal, and start working out their issues with each other violently and sadistically. The corridor continues to grow, and its power increases until only Tyler is in his right mind.

The Corridor has a great set-up, with plenty of mystery and an eerie tension build. The characters are well-written, if a little stereotyped, and the idea of an isolated reunion in the woods is a solid platform for the supernatural/horror elements.

Where MacDonald went wrong with the story is in the last act. As with a number of indie horror pics, I feel like MacDonald had some innovative ideas, but simply didn’t know how to bring them together into one cohesive finale. There’s simply not enough data offered to form any kind of explanation for the events at the end, and this overly ambiguous ending smacks of either laziness, or a flawed script.

The climax, in which the corridor begins speaking through some of the guys, almost comes across as campy, particularly when the sign language comes into play and the desire of the corridor to “connect”. It also seems like the story wants to be a number of different things, from a supernatural corridor that wants to make a connection with humanity, to a doorway that needs to be opened/closed, to a sentient mystical force that only exists because of Tyler’s mind.

The corridor itself is an interesting entity. It’s some sort of (maybe evil) singularity created from energy or radio signals or maybe some electronic alien dimension. What is clear is that it makes people go crazy, and that it wants to make a connection. The end does little to answer any of these questions, and the mystical corridor, while a compelling story aspect, could have used a comprehensible purpose. And the constant re-direction of clues about what the corridor is or wants leads me to believe the writer just didn’t know what he wanted to do with it.

Young Canadian actors Stephen Chambers (Tyler), David Patrick Flemming, James Gilbert, Glen Matthews and Matthew Amyotte all provided stellar performances. Chambers led the pack, as the main character and also for the palpable authenticity he brought to the role. A short appearance by Nigel Bennett will please genre fans; and he is, as always, fun to watch.

The CGI corridor effects were solid, as were the old-school gore effects. I did appreciate the way newbie director Evan Kelly dealt with the violence. It’s not a full-reveal, but almost a teasing kind of action that gives audiences just enough visuals to imagine the horrors just hidden from view.

The camera work also added some interest, with some glazed screens and magnifying effects adding to the sense of disconnection from reality. The play with focus and the partially obscured violence (interspersed with moments of in-your-face gore) gave the pic some interesting dimension.

The Corridor offers some effective horror elements, and intriguing camera work and direction. The character development and human aspect of the story is compelling, but the supernatural elements of the story falter at the end, and the conclusion feels underdone and illogical. Overall, not a bad entry from some rising Canadian filmmakers trying to break into the genre film industry.

The Corridor Review [FF 2011]

This “cabin-in-the-woods” horror pic gets off to a good start with subtle chills and a fresh concept, but ultimately suffers from a weak, overly vague ending.

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