Supernatural Miner Slasher The Canyonlands (2021) Offers Little Prospect
Title: The Canyonlands
First Wide Release: March 5, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Brendan Devane
Writer: Brendan Devane
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Starring: Stephanie Barkley, Marqus Bobesich, Ari Anderson
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Five people win a weekend rafting trip along the beautiful Colorado River. They are led by their capable guide, Lauren (Stephanie Barkley), who hides a troubled past from trauma experienced in her childhood on a similar trip. Once Lauren’s boss gives her one final pep talk, and a thank you for taking on an extra shift last minute, the group is off to their canyon vacation adventure. After a few successful hours of rowing, they stop for the night to set up camp. As the night approaches, the group naturally splits up and finds out that they aren’t so alone out in the wilderness.
A glum and meandering trip, The Canyonlands is a well-worn slasher that delivers nothing but an overfamiliar story and trite scares.
After you have seen a decent amount of horror films, it can get easy to predict what happens next. For a typical film, it won’t be everything, but most viewers can get it right at least half of the time. The Canyonlands plays out so generically that it almost feels like a case study in Horror Filmmaking 101 on how to execute the most formulaic movie possible. Every beat, and I mean every beat, plays out exactly how you would expect it to right down to the 'shocking' twist at the end.
The worst part is that it goes on for an hour and thirty-nine minutes. Unless you have slasher gold on your hands, it’s best to keep it short. And it could have been, had the plot amounted to anything really. There’s very little mystery to the film. Everything is delivered in convenient exposition dumps strategically placed to hook the viewers, who are still watching due to the sunk cost fallacy, into thinking something meaningful will be revealed in the end. Spoiler: that really doesn’t happen.
What The Canyonlands lacks in plot, it doesn’t make up for in character development. Spoiler: there isn’t much. We enjoy the company of stock characters who live without an ounce of personality or charisma and suck all life out of the film the moment they open their mouths. And with the amount of atrocious and repetitive dialogue this movie throws at you, you bet your ass they open their mouths a lot.
All of the actors feel stiff and uncomfortable. It’s probably because they know no one in their right mind would root for their character to live at the end of the day. I also have a personal beef with one of the film’s more minor characters and first victims, the social media queen. I will forever hate “social media influencer” characters until films do them right. Yes, they get certain traits right, but no self-respecting Instagram model will take selfies at night in bad lighting if they are supposedly paid for their content. It isn’t realistic and shows how little thought is put into the characterization. Influencers give filmmakers so much content to cultivate genuinely great characters and y’all still mess it up? Much like every character in this film, I will die on this hill!
There’s not much to say that I haven’t already said. The Canyonlands is just a genuinely annoying and eyerolling watch. There’s not much direction, or even sense of a story, and it overstays its welcome pretty quickly, oftentimes mistaking scene duration for suspense. It’s silly but not in a fun, comedic, or even charming way that even most Syfy original films manage to nail. Aside from a few nice daytime visuals, the film is pretty bad all around.
Not only is it a bad movie, The Canyonlands is insufferably boring. With a good setting and basic film equipment, anyone can make a solid horror flick, so long as the story is good, the characters are interesting or likable, and the evil force is scary. Unfortunately, the team behind this desert demon slasher film couldn’t disagree more. The prospect of discovering a clever indie miner slasher in The Canyonlands may entice the unfamiliar but take it from this reviewer that any such delusions are purely fool’s gold.
Overall Score? 3/10