Canvas (2022)
Canvas (2022)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 23 min.

Release Date: August 9th, 2022 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Ryan Guiterman Actors: Steve Key, Isabel Ellison, Marama Corlett, Mandy Bishop, Juan Francisco Villa, Mia Hutchinson Shaw, Ell Peck

 


 

A

n otherworldly entity has been wandering between galaxies, banished by his former masters Elohim (which is God in Old Testament Hebrew) and the Morning Star. When he comes upon the Yeda, the keepers of time, he learns of the human race, which could give him a new habitat to do his work – art that is actually the creation of death and mayhem. On Earth in 2007, the media dubs a string of unsolved murders as having been conducted by the “Painter,” whose crime scenes feature murals drawn out in the victims’ blood, which puts the population on edge. By 2014, over 4 million slaughters – a pandemic of worldwide Painter murders – torments the globe. This prompts the formation of the Painter Defense Agency, which attempts to put a stop to the atrocities.

By 2016, the P.D.A. insists that it has saved the planet from the terrorization of the Painter, preventing millions of deaths. But employees of the bureau secretly curse the fact that they haven’t actually solved the enigma of the Painter, and are instead covering up additional crimes; serving as damage control (or cleaners) of sorts, rather than conducting real apprehensions and convictions. In 2022, George Rohan (Steve Key) is one such agent, who can barely deal with the guilt of constantly pretending to his wife (Mandy Bishop) that everything is okay. “I will lie, because I must lie.”

The music (except for Beethoven’s Allegretto [from Symphony No. 7 in A Major], which is generally recognizable for its copyright-free usage) and sound effects and initial sequences of horror are tremendously effective in generating a sense of anticipation and dread. But the animation technique (overlaying motion-capture) seems to conceal some of the more horrifying imagery, rather than augmenting it positively; bloody attacks or creepy skulking by the preternatural culprit are moderately less petrifying when so heavily camouflaged by overactive linework and jerky shadows. It’s also considerably less discernible, as details are obscured – though that might be what the filmmakers want (perhaps to disguise low-budget ingredients).

Other sequences, specifically those exhibiting recorded footage, play out with less computerized manipulation, showing the actual actors, which betray glimpses of a normalized reality. Unfortunately, the animation used is highly reminiscent of “A Scanner Darkly,” but with a simpler look, which occasionally makes it more difficult to view for lengthier scenes. It’s dreamlike (or nightmarish), but also puzzling and ineffectual; in the realm of a horror picture, some of it is understandable, but any artistic efforts that diminish the film’s ability to convey its story or message become more detrimental than stylish.

Curiously, portions of the film are narrated by the alien itself, which partially help to explain its purpose, but also adds to the strangeness – especially when he speaks in riddles or about extraterrestrial (or religious) notions and motives that compound the arcaneness. And complicating his involvement is the conspiratorial nature of the P.D.A., whose workers are secreting away all sorts of information, which reporter Reila Martin (Isabel Ellison) tries to uncover – presenting a mystery component that isn’t exactly mystifying, considering that audiences already know the evildoer is the Painter. On top of all of that is the fact that a handful of subplots are unveiled out of chronological order, while many characters’ backstories are brimming with flashbacks and chapters divided by jarring titles.

Midway through, “Canvas” also relies too much on quiet, mournful, philosophical confessionals that bolster various relationships (and the overarching theme of humanity distrusting, rightfully, its own governmental institutions) but slow down the pacing. Without the earnest conundrums of a journalist’s digging and compiling and whistleblowing, the bulk of the second act is simply time-stretching, dialogue-heavy interactions, which decreases the tensions of a monster hunting for prey (or its masterpiece). The finale is an explosive mindtrip (“It’s a film meant to be experienced rather than understood,” suggests writer/director Ryan Guiterman, a sentiment that illustrates some of the greater problems), full of big ideas, but light on satisfaction. “It’s not over …”

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10