An Interview with Ivan Kavanagh, Director of THE CANAL

Looking for a flick guaranteed to keep you up at night? Director Ivan Kavanagh has crafted just such a film with The Canal  (you can read the review here). After viewing, we decided to reach out to Kavanagh and ask him a few questions about The Canal, his influences, and other sundry things.

Hi, Mr. Kavanagh. First off, thank you very much for doing this interview. After watching The Canal, I did a bit of research and discovered that you drew upon your own fears during the writing of the screenplay. What were some of those fears?

Well I think everyone who sets out to write a horror film, to some extent, must do the same. My fears are the ones most other people have, fear of the dark, fear of loss, fear of death, the death of a loved one etc. But I didn’t consciously put any of these into the script, they just came out as I was writing. I usually start on page one of a script, with a basic idea of what the film is about, and I see what comes out as I write. It’s completely intuitive. The only time I have anything like writers block is when someone tries to analyze my writing, and makes me overthink it.

I loved the ambiguity of The Canal and how the reality of the movie is left open to question at the end. Was that intentional, or was it a happy accident?

Yes, this was definitely intentional. I wanted to make a film that you think you may have figured out (as in, this is what definitely happened), but when you watch it again you are not so sure. I hope it’s a film that can be watched and re-watched, and each time you will see something different. Those are the types of films I love.

After viewing The Canal I sought out your previous horror effort, Tin Can Man, which I really enjoyed. To me, it was like a David Lynch movie that David Lynch didn’t direct. What was the inspiration for that movie?

I lived in apartment buildings for many years and it occurred to me, late one night, that I didn’t know who any of my neighbors were. Anyone could knock on my door and say they lived next door and I’d have to take their word for it. And then I got thinking about what if a stranger came into my apartment and refused to leave, or threatened me with violence, what would I do? These, to me, were terrifying thoughts and I wrote the film pretty quickly after that.

It seems like your movies often focus on the darker, more depressing aspects of life and the world. Why is that?

I’ve always been attracted to darker films, books, works of art etc. and when I write it just comes out “dark”. But I have no idea why this is. I hope there’s beauty there too, particularly in some of the dramas I’ve made. My outlook on life certainly isn’t bleak. If it were, I don’t think I’d be able to make films, which, on the whole, is a joyous experience for me, no matter what the subject matter of the films.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker? And who are some of your favorite filmmakers?

I’m from a working-class background, so the idea that I would become a filmmaker never really entered my head when I was a kid, as it just didn’t happen where I came from. But I was very lucky in that I grew up in a household filled with books and where films were always on. My father was, and still is, a movie buff, with a special love of classic Hollywood cinema and my uncle loved foreign cinema, so I saw a lot of great films at an early age and this love of cinema was passed on to me. Then, in my early teens, my mother bought a cheap Hi8 video camera and I began making little films, editing with two VCR’s back to back, and I felt, from the moment I made my first edit, that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The filmmakers that have inspired me over the years , and continue to do so, are Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Nicolas Roeg, Orson Welles, Peter Watkins, David Cronenberg, Alan Clarke, Robert Aldrich, David Lean (particularly his early highly atmospheric Dickens adaptations) and Fritz Lang.

You’re on a desert island and you can only have five horror movies with you. What five are they, and why?

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I think is a masterpiece and one of the most visceral pieces of nightmarish filmmaking I’ve ever seen. Don’t Look Now, for the acting, the mood, the visuals, and especially the incredible editing. Rosemary’s Baby, which is just a flawless piece of filmmaking in my opinion, and has the best dream sequence in cinema. Scarlet Street, not necessarily a horror film, but it’s a film I’ve watched countless times, is Fritz Lang’s best American film and ends in a nightmarish reality for its main character that does resemble a horror film in its bleakness and stark worldview. And The Shining, probably for the same reasons most other people love The Shining.

What projects do you currently have in the works?

It’s looking like my next film will probably be my western Never Grow Old, which I’m very excited about and will hopefully shoot later this year. It’s a very ambitious, violent, tense, exciting, and hopefully very moving film, about an Irish immigrant undertaker and his family in 1849 America. I’m also in development on a US TV series and a couple of other feature film projects, including another horror film with the producer of The Canal.


Be sure and check out The Canal, available on DVD, Netflix, and Amazon Instant.

About Evan Romero

Evan Romero has been a horror fan since watching “Leprechaun” at the age of five. Aside from watching and writing about horror flicks, he delights in torturing friends with Z-grade movies. He’s also an unabashed Andy Milligan fan, God help him.

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