One gets the impression that the creators of the recent Canadian horror film The Corridor are A) big fans of Stephen King, and B) not all that enamored with some of the author's cinematic adaptations -- namely Dreamcatcer and The Langoliers. And generally when one begins a film review by mentioning than "movie x feels a lot like two other books," that's generally not a big compliment. In the case of The Corridor, the smart and scrappy film earns praise by turning into one of the coolest King mash-ups you'll come across.
That's not to say that writer John McDonald and director Evan Kelly are content to simply play around in the King-sized sandbox. Although The Corridor most certainly feels like two two flicks mentioned above, it manages to congeal into something quite unexpectedly compelling. Cerebral, shocking, and consistently fun to discover -- but here's the plot.
A group of five old friends are meeting at an isolated cabin. One of the gang recently suffered a severe mental breakdown, and the others are intent on being there as poor Tyler's support system. The pals all seem like a one-note lot (the married one, the brainy one, the ladykiller, etc.) but the actors (and the script) do an astute job of giving each of the players their own simple streaks of personality. There's a decent amount of character development to begin with, but then ... something weird happens.
There's something... otherworldly out in the forest. It could be an intergalactic bubble or perhaps its an id-inspired force-field of some variety, but all of a sudden Tyler doesn't seem quite so schizophrenic anymore. Weirder still, Tyler's four friends emerge from the "anomaly" feeling superhuman, super-intelligent, and (eventually) super-horrifying. The concept is sound, the presentation is crisp and efficient, the players are "into" the concept wholeheartedly ... and because of these things, The Corridor really cooks.
What could have easily turned out like an overlong and overwrought, if rather gruesome, episode of The X-Files is instead a stark and sobering rumination on the fragility of sanity, the dangers of conformity, and horrific side of man's egocentric nature. But that makes The Corridor sound a bit like a stodgy Psych 101 lecture; it's not. Despite its evidently small budget, The Corridor is shot smoothly, cut smartly, and presented crisply. The actors are strong, the pacing is tight, and the scary bits arrive as either basic, bloody, or borderline brilliant (an extended game of Rock Paper Scissors creeped me out, I don't mind saying.)
So there's our lesson for the day: not all "five guys in a cabin" thrillers are created equally. The Corridor may borrow themes and ideas from a handful of disparate sources, but in the end it all comes together with care and craftsmanship, and the result is one of the coolest Canadian chillers in years.