Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Canyon (2009)

What comes to mind when you think of the Grand Canyon? Wide, expansive spaces? Majestic views? Awe-inspiring vistas? Certainly fear and/or tragedy isn’t one of the first things you think of (well, I hope not anyway!), but the Grand Canyon has had its share of shocking deaths within its deep walls.

According to Wikipedia, “About 600 deaths have occurred in the Grand Canyon since the 1870s. Some of these deaths occurred as the result of overly zealous photographic endeavors, some were the result of airplane collisions within the canyon, and some visitors drowned in the Colorado River. Many hikers overestimate their fitness level, become dehydrated and confused, and must be rescued.”

The Canyon preys upon people’s fear of being lost in the wilderness and of nature in general. It tells the tale of city slickers and eloped newlyweds Nick (Eion Bailey) and Lori (Yvonne Strahovski) who decide to spend their honeymoon taking a mule ride down to the Grand Canyon’s floor. Problem is, they need a permit and permits have to be booked months in advance. They think all hope is lost, but then they meet weathered tour guide Henry (Will Patton), who promises he can procure the necessary permits and guide them down the Grand Canyon. Things start off well, but when they reach the canyon floor disaster strikes when Henry suffers a nasty fall off his mule and is bitten by rattlesnakes. Without their mules and no way to reach the outside world for help, Nick and Lori must find their way out of the canyon…before it is too late.

I’ll be honest, I was intrigued by the trailers for The Canyon. I thought there was a chance for the film, a take on the nature-run-amuck subgenre, to actually be good. Unfortunately, the film is as bland as vanilla and never pushes boundaries.

The best part of the film, the beautiful setting, is the most fleeting and ill-used. Sure, the characters are constantly surrounded by the towering canyon walls, but the Grand Canyon’s vastness isn’t quite captured. I wish director Richard Harrah and cinematographer Nelson Cragg had tried to make the titular character a bit more menacing and scary. It would have been nice to see the Grand Canyon become a character onto itself, but it became secondary to the other natural horrors experienced by the married couple.

Also, the script by Steve Allrich was painfully generic. The only thing that really stood out was the wily character of Henry (which also yielded the only stand out performance, by Will Patton). The characters of Nick and Lori were boring and I couldn’t really root for them because I knew so little about them. Plus, they make some truly bone-headed decisions (hey, let’s climb this cliff that goes hundreds of feet straight up! Hey, let’s not backtrack our steps but try to find another way out!). And, again, the biggest underdeveloped character was the Grand Canyon itself. It was supposed to be this formidable opponent of the married couple, but it really felt like the film could have been set anywhere and it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. It really is a pity, because the Grand Canyon definitely has the potential to be formidable, but this film just didn’t capitalize enough on its location.

I kept waiting and waiting for The Canyon to become thrilling, but the moment never came. There were some shocking scenes (including a pretty tense amputation scene), but they never amounted to much. The Canyon is just far too safe and generic for me…and wasted a perfectly frightening setting!

Order it on Amazon!

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