A scene from THE CORRIDOR

The Corridor

Canada. Directed by Evan Kelly, 2010. Starring Stephen Chambers, David Patrick Flemming, James Gilbert. 98 minutes. 8/10

Five men–five friends–arrive at the house in the woods. Chris Comeau (David Patrick Flemming), a teacher of the deaf at the high school he and his friends attended. His cousin Bob “Bobcat” Comeau (Matthew Amyotte), happily married, father of several children, but balding and unable to get over a pro ball career that never happened. Ev Manette (James Gilbert), a bartender screwing his boss on the side. Jim “Huggsy” Huggan (Glen Matthews), married to a beautiful woman he can’t impregnate.

And Tyler Crawley (Stephen Chambers), recently released from psychiatric care, bearing his late mother’s ashes.

Some time ago, Tyler had a psychotic break, triggered by the apparent suicide of his mother, a woman who herself had mental issues. He attacked his friends, slicing Ev across the face and stabbing Chris through the hand.

The house in the woods is “Pauline’s Retreat,” the Crawley family’s second home. The friends come to reminisce, to make amends, to bond, and to lay their good friend’s mother to rest.

Scattering the ashes out by the old beacon tower, Tyler stumbles through something much like a force field covering a small patch of ground. It keeps the light in and weather out, and inside it, machinery and electronics don’t function. It scares him, but it also fascinates him, and he returns to it several times, eventually leading the rest of his friends there.

It’s when all five friends stand inside the zone that they get a glimpse of its full potential. It grows larger with every visit. First it was like a room; now it’s like a hallway, a corridor. And it changes them somehow, binding their minds together in a telepathic bond.

But one of those minds is sick. The corridor is gradually driving the friends crazy. And at the center of that madness is the relationship between Tyler and his late mother.

The most effective horror films, to me, are the ones that work on an existential level. I don’t mind a fun tale of stupid teenagers relentlessly stalked by an axe-wielding maniac in a rubber mask, but they’re like junk food to me, empty calories. But a movie that poses fundamental questions about the nature of reality and humanity’s perception of it? That’s a satisfying meal with a rich dessert. I cut my teeth on Lovecraft, after all. That’s why I loved The Corridor so much.

Screenwriter Josh McDonald and director Evan Kelly keep a tight focus on the five friends and the things that make them tick. In this way it’s closer to a psychological thriller than a standard horror movie. This is a film about men and how they relate to each other, and it hits the nail on the head. When I get together with my male friends, we treat each other the way these guys do. Yes, they indulge in machismo, break each others’ balls, and engage in dick-measuring contests, but there’s no small measure of sensitivity and affection as well. Exaggerated bromance men-children need not apply.

Another thing the film gets right is…I’m not sure I want to call it a “mid-life crisis” (even though that’s what Netflix says) because it doesn’t look like any of the actors were older than thirty, but it’s the feeling of failure one gets having reached a certain age without having conquered the entire world. I think this is a distinctly male concern; women experience something similar but since they have an entirely different set of cultural expectations laid on them, it’s not quite the same. None of the five are satisfied with their lives, and suffer from some degree of self-loathing. Even Jim, who pretty much has conquered the entire world, but still hates himself because he can’t get his wife pregnant (and the film makes it clear that it’s Jim’s “fault” because he’s firing blanks).

Drop the Corridor into the middle of this and suddenly everyone’s sharing neuroses and delusions…and let’s not forget Tyler, who probably suffers from schizophrenia. Many viewers won’t be pleased that the Corridor doesn’t get all that much screen time or explanation, but let’s get real: is there anything that could satisfactorily explain a Phantom Zone that turns people into mind-readers? I didn’t think so. This is a film that trusts its audience not to get hung up on the stuff that’s not important.

The Corridor is an ensemble piece for a strong cast, and all five of the main actors put in excellent performances. Flemming’s Chris is the emotional center and audience-identification character; Chambers underplays Tyler’s crazy (it must have been hard to fight off the temptation to go full Nicolas Cage); Gilbert manages to make Ev likable despite a long streak of douchebaggery. Amyotte and Matthews are also terrific.

There are few minor roles, but Mary-Colin Chisholm makes a strong impression as Pauline Crawley, and respected British character actor Nigel Bennett (probably best known for his roles on Forever KnightLa Femme Nikita and Lexx) makes a brief appearance as a hunter who stumbles across the Corridor.

There are a couple of silly narrative decisions in the last fifteen or so minutes, some dodgy effects, and the world’s fakest-looking bald cap on Amyotte’s head. But honestly, if that’s the stuff you care about then you’re watching the wrong movie.

The Corridor is a genuinely thought-provoking cosmic horror story that remembers that the center of the story isn’t some awesome supernatural force, but the characters who discover that force, and how they respond to it. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Scott.

The Corridor poster