You’d be forgiven for assuming, looking at the cover and a brief synopsis of the film, that The Corridor is yet another in a long line of straight-to-DVD cabin-in-the-woods movies (the subgenre, not the Goddard/Whedon film). But director Evan Kelly and writer Josh MacDonald haven worked with the limitations associated with the budget and location and created a claustrophobic, slow-burning horror/thriller.
The film opens with Tyler (Stephen Chambers) cowering in a cupboard, looking through the slats at his mother lying dead on the floor. When his four friends arrive to pick him up, he snaps and attacks them. Cut to several years later, and the four are now in early-onset mid-life crisis. It’s the anniversary of Tyler’s mother’s death, and they’ve agreed to travel to her cabin in the woods to help the recently released Tyler mourn her. The group drink and discuss their glory days but, as old wounds are re-opened, their dissatisfaction with their lives becomes increasingly evident. When Tyler finds a supernatural corridor in the woods, the side-effects include reinvigoration, heightened perception, nosebleeds and violence.
The Corridor might look like something you’d find on TV during a bout of insomnia-driven channel-hopping, but it’s actually a fairly engrossing piece of work. Kelly takes his time to make sure we’re invested in the group, and we’re over halfway through before the inevitable turn for the gruesome occurs. This commitment to character is a welcome and effective surprise, and the drama/horror switch is impressively swift and unpleasant. Stephen King is the film’s main power animal, and it plays out as a combination of Dreamcatcher and The Tommyknockers as the childhood friends are gradually altered by the powerful forces.
This decision to delay the violence does mean that the emphasis on soured male-bonding gets a little repetitive, however, and by the time that the first body hits the floor we are starting to lose our sympathy for some of the characters. But it’s also clearly a decision on the part of the filmmakers to highlight the friends’ flaws and show us how and why they’ve drifted apart. Kelly was Assistant Director on Marc Evans’ underrated My Little Eye, and there’s a similar feeling of icy inhumanity here. The old resentments simmering under the ‘good-natured’ jokes show a group of people who have remained friends more out of a sense of duty than anything else.
The performances are solid too, with Chambers’ twitchy Tyler, David Patrick Flemming’s likeable Chris and James Gilbert’s detached Everett standing out. The script and some of the cast wobble occasionally once the horror element is introduced, but there is an impressive commitment from everyone to ensure that the characters convince before things go dark.
And once the characters step inside the corridor, things get nasty pretty quickly. It’s difficult to get into without venturing into spoiler territory, but the violence is brutal and affecting. The film does have its problems, though: the good intentions are occasionally let down by the usual low-budget/first-time-director problems (unpolished script, slightly unconvincing histrionics, a few too many lifts from other films, a rushed ending), and it may well be too slow for those looking for a quick gore fix. But for horror fans who are looking for something a little different and are willing, like the film, to take the time to invest in the characters, The Corridor is worth a look.