Movie review: The Boathouse gets high marks for its horror / college vibe

Canadian director Hannah Cheesman excels at this small-scale story

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Academic feuds meet the horror of the cabin in the woods in The boathouse , a new film from Canadian director Hannah Cheesman. Michaela Kurimsky stars Anne, a piano student who accepts a summer job as a home janitor for the two children of her master’s supervisor, Natalia.

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Natalia is no longer pictured, having left her family and her teaching job six months earlier under mysterious circumstances. Young Leon and Emily are clearly troubled by this, while Anne has her own issues; in the opening scene, she talks to her doctor about drugs, anxiety, and “the accident.”

During the summer, Anne’s anxiety grows, as does her attachment to Dominic (Alan Van Sprang), the father of the children. He’s also a professor, always trying to follow through on his one-hit wonder, awkwardly titled academic tome. Literary orgasms . So there is a natural imbalance of power as well as a 20-year age gap.

Kurimsky puts on a convincing performance as Anne, fragile and shaking and disturbed by sleepwalking and hallucinations – unless there really is a ghost playing the piano in the boathouse? Either way, something is behind his aberrant behavior, which includes borrowing various items from Natalia. And Van Sprang lives up to his performance, playing a man still reeling over his wife’s disappearance.

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With its limited cast and sets (it was shot in Northern Ontario) The boathouse delivers a story on a relatively small scale, which is great; better than biting more than he can chew. And with an intriguing sound design – classic piano for a moment, John Carpenter electronica the next, punctuated with layered vocals and indecipherable noises – Cheesman skillfully directs his drama to an unexpected, but somehow right, conclusion.

The Boathouse opens December 10 at the Carlton in Toronto; December 13 for a night in Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Orleans, Ottawa, Penticton, Waterloo, Whitby and Winnipeg; and December 14 on request.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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