Grimmfest took over Manchester’s Dancehouse theatre between the 2nd and 5th October for what was possibly the strongest line-up for the festival so far. Some truly incredibly films were shown which included Brian O’Malley‘s LET US PREY, Gerard Johnstone‘s HOUSEBOUND and James Ward Byrkit‘s COHERENCE but none of them held a light to Ivan Kevanagh‘s chilling horror film THE CANAL.
Starring Rupert Evans (Hellboy), Steve Oram (Sightseers) and Kelly Byrne, THE CANAL is the story of a film archivist David (Evans) who moves into a new house with his pregnant wife. Shortly after the birth of their child David comes across a film that reveals that his home was the scene of a brutal murder. Becoming more unhinged with the discovery his life is turned upside down when his wife goes missing and it’s not long before he begins to suspect that the presence in his house is not only supernatural but has something to do with the disappearance of his wife.
Ahead of the closing film I was lucky enough to catch up with actress Kelly Byrne and actor Steve Oram (Sightseers) who were attending Grimmfest to take part in an exclusive Q&A that was taking place after the film. We sat down and asked them questions about the film, what it was like on set, why they love horror and what their expectations were ahead of of the night’s screening. Thanks for reading.
SO: I was asked by Ivan after he had seen Sightseers. He enjoyed my rendition of a man who kills people for fun *laughs* and he thought I had a vibe going on so he asked me to do it. I read the script and thought it was brilliant and the rest is history.
KB: I had done an acting class and the director recommended me to Ivan who came down to see me. We met and had a chat and we kept in touch and then he asked me to send some footage to him and a year later he offered me the part.
JD: Fantastic. Have you both seen the finished film?
SO: Yeah. I saw it at Frightfest and the crowd went crazy for it. It was a brilliant night and Frightfest is for the fans so everyone really gets into it. When we watched it Kelly and I both thought it had some very genuinely jump-out-of your seat moments…
KB: Yeah, that’s right. There were screams and some were from myself.
SO: *laughs* Yeah I was screaming myself too.
JD: That makes three of us then.
JD: So what is it specifically about the horror genre that you both love so much?
KB: Well I think the most successful horror films are the ones that draw you in allowing you to open up. It’s brilliant because they make you jump, the reaction is powerful…
SO: Yeah, it’s the reaction, the physical visceral reaction to what’s on screen…
KB: Yeah… and it’s the only type of film that never lets you go. It shocks you and makes you scream because they are so interesting and you find yourself absorbed into the film so when something pops up it really startles you.
SO: Yes. It’s similar to comedy which for me is the other genre that creates a real reaction in its audience. I have witnessed that as a member of the audience they are the best films to watch as you feel part of the crowd especially with horror fans.
SO: My background is in stand-up comedy but in recent years it’s clear that with both genres you really see a connection with their audience. It is really brilliant fun.
JD: I had the opportunity to see the film ahead of tonight’s screening and I must say that it is one of the most unnerving and terrifying film experiences that I’ve had the pleasure to watch in a long time. Why do you think the film is so powerful when compared to the more standard fare out there?
SO: Our director. Ivan is very experienced and very good at what he does. He is a skilled filmmaker and knows what it takes to scare his audience. His sense of direction, the score and the overall effect, the film is incredibly powerful and it’s very scary too. The audience will love it.
JD: What was it like on-set? Was it a difficult shoot?
SO: Not difficult, it was a very organised shoot. The only challenging thing was that we had no money and we had a very short time to complete the film but they were very focused on what Ivan and the rest of the team wanted to achieve. It was a simple film based around one location but I felt the whole structure of the team and how they were was incredibly organised. It was only a few weeks ago when I first watched the film that I came to realise how powerful the film actually is. I had an idea in my head of how it would turn out but watching it I thought it was brilliant, it was really good technically and every other way.
SO: I loved it. With any part I do I approach it in a very serious way be it comedy or anything. So when I was doing Sightseers I did nothing different, I was playing that character and if anything funny came out of it then that’s great. With The Canal I took exactly the same approach to play my character who is this detective guy.
JD: Kelly, you play Sophie, the tormented nanny in the film. Your character goes through her fair share of trauma during the film. Was this your first horror experience? How did you find it?
KB: Yes. It was my first. I loved it. It was really challenging but the pay off was amazing. I would never have thought that I would have played a part quite like this that requires so much of you, that requires so much emotion and I think that’s the best thing to do as an actor – to constantly challenge yourself and learn. This is what the horror genre does. It’s very difficult in parts but the pay off is worth it by the end especially when you have a good director like Ivan behind you. I really want to do a horror film again, I had so much fun.
JD: I’ve read that The Canal has been compared to films such as Don’t Look Now. What is your opinion on this?
SO: Yeah, I heard that. I suppose there are similarities and there are some dream-like nightmares that go on and such.
KB: Ivan once told me that in some of his past interviews that it was his intention to pay homage to some of the films that he loves. I shouldn’t probably say this as I will be quoted… *laughs*
SO: He won’t mind. He’ll like it.
KB: He said that because of the type of film it is that Rupert Evans’ character is an archivist so it is his job to watch films so Ivan is saying that basically in the scenes where he is watching footage he could pay homage to his favourite films like The Shining…
SO: Rosemary’s Baby was a favourite of his too.
KB: Yeah… also The Fly to which the birth scene is directly influenced by as well as the musical score.
(both Steve and Kelly Laugh)
KB: It sounds like I’m talking shite but the musical score is also influenced by these films. He said that because the dream-like sequences are influenced by life he would be inspired to film the dream-like sequences in the same manner. He thought it was a perfect opportunity to pay homage to the films he loves.
JD: The festival circuit here in the UK is a unique and incredible experience for everyone. Steve you’ve experienced Frightfest and now Grimmfest, what do you think about the UK horror festivals in general?
SO: There is no pretense with them, it’s all about fun. When you come to a horror festival you realise that it is not like other festivals where the talent and buyers are trying to strike a deal between themselves instead its about the atmosphere. There’s a real sense of fun and enjoyment and it’s like that at horror festivals around the world. It’s great.
JD: So you are here to promote The Canal which has been selected to close this year’s Grimmfest. What are your expectations ahead of tonight’s screening?
SO: I’m a bit nervous but i’m quietly confident about tonight because I think it is a good film. It’s there and it’s done so you can’t change it can you.
KB: Yes, lots of scares. They should be frightened.
SO: Yeah, I’m hoping they go mental and shit themselves at the same time.
JD: So what’s next?
SO: I just finished work on my next feature film about a world where there is no speech so there is no dialogue. That was completed last summer.
JD: Is that a horror title?
SO: Kind of. It’s very much in that realm of strangeness *laughs*. Julian Barratt is in it too as are many of my mates so yeah, that should be great.
JD: How about you Kelly?
KB: I just got cast in a feature film from Element Pictures. It’s a small part but I expect to be filming that at the end of this month.
We’d like to thank Steve and Kelly for speaking to us and wish them the best of success with The Canal and beyond.
We’ll leave you with the latest trailer of the film and urge you to catch it as soon as it reaches a city or town near you….