Enough films — mostly horror, but inclusive of all sorts of reunion movies — unfold in and around secluded cabins in the woods that it would probably not at all be a stretch to program a festival comprised entirely of said offerings. A lot of times this setting is the result of writing to a single, accessible, low-budget location, and there isn’t a whole lot of imagination or quality of performance that then raises the material, and argues for either the talent or continued professional opportunity of those involved. Every once in a while, however, there’s a movie that completely punches through the clutter and any sighing downmarket expectations attached to said backdrop. That’s the case with The Corridor, a delightfully unnerving mind-fuck that satisfyingly blends character-rooted fraternal jockeying with elements of psychological horror. A gripping work from start to finish, the movie just enjoyed its west coast premiere as an in-competition title at the just-wrapped Dances With Films festival, and could easily find wider distribution in its future.
Written by Josh MacDonald and directed by Evan Kelly, The Corridor opens with a tense scene in which a rattled, nonsensical Tyler (Stephen Chambers, above) is found by his friends with the body of his mother, Pauline (Mary-Colin Chisholm). When they try to persuade him to drop a knife in his possession, he charges, wounding a couple of them before being subdued. Several months later, after some psychiatric treatment, Tyler and his friends have seemingly reached an uneasy peace, and they decide to accompany him out into the snowy Nova Scotian woods for a guys’ weekend, during which they will dispose of Pauline’s ashes.
The rest of the gang consists of Chris (David Patrick Flemming), who took a knife through the hand in Tyler’s attack; his lumbering cousin Bobcat (Matthew Amyotte, sporting a not entirely convincing skull cap to approximate pattern baldness), who is already married and with kids; book-smart Jim (Glen Matthews), struggling to conceive a baby with his wife; and Ev (James Gilbert, who could easily pass as Bradley Cooper’s younger brother), a would-be musician stuck in a dead-end job where he bangs his boss almost as a favor. The first act unfolds deliberately, with most of the guys keeping a cautious eye on Tyler — who’s still taking medication to suppress any mild schizophrenic tendencies — and old grudges being passively-aggressively raised, under the guise of kidding around.
When Tyler — certain that he’s seen some strange force-field — asks Chris to accompany him into the woods, things take a turn. The rest of the gang trails Chris, concerned for his safety, and everyone is more than a little surprised to discover that Tyler’s tale isn’t merely the product of a splintered mind or troubled imagination. The guys find an odd, shimmering patch of land seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and inside its permeable, barely visible walls a strange calm descends upon each of them. Certain that they can somehow financially exploit this finding, Ev wants to stay and “guard” the mysterious rectangular area. The others return to the cabin, with loose plans to eventually come back and spell Ev. Needless to say, things do not proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion.
Its snowy, holed-up setting and slow-spreading, almost viral madness recalls Dreamcatcher and any number of other movies in which mental unraveling slowly brings about bloodletting, and the exceedingly well stitched-together The Corridor is a movie that is very much about mental illness and the fallibility of moral certitude, whatever its supernatural trappings. Working with cinematographer Christopher Ball, director Kelly creates a compelling film whose smart framing choices and moderate, to-scale special effects work do a fantastic job of conveying its premise, but not tipping overboard into manic silliness. Gore can be great fun, but this is a little movie with an almost perfect balance of violence, tonal creepiness and more naturalized drama. The budgetary limitations obviously constrained certain choices on the part of filmmakers, and the result is bracing and fresh.
Aiding their cause is the fact that the performances here are uniformly superb. In something of a sad but true rarity for an independent work of this nature, each cast member evidences a discrete character with their own special and identifiable interests and motivations while also exhibiting a great and unforced ensemble rapport. The friendships in The Corridor are entirely believable, as are the uneasy reservations that linger in especially the movie’s early scenes. Only a bit, toward the end, does the film overreach, making a mannered play for a visual impression. Still, this a fabulously effective feature debut for Kelly, and a work that bodes well for all of the talent involved, both on screen and behind the camera. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Chronicle Pictures/Last Call Productions/Egg Films, unrated, 100