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average rating is 4 out of 5


Chris Buick


Posted on:

Feb 4, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Taka Tsubota
Written by:
Jasper Chen
Barron Leung, Andrew Hayden Kang, Kiyoshi Shishido, Thaddeus Newman, Matthew Mitchell Espinosa

Imagining one's self trying to survive in an apocalyptic world isn’t as hard as it used to be, there are more than enough films, shows, books and everything in between that can and have painted very horrific pictures of what form the end of the world might take. Short-film Canary, directed by Taka Tsubota and written by Jasper Chen, has now added itself to that canon but succeeds in making itself stand out with its tense, discomforting and above all else smart offering.


Alan (Leung) is joining his cousin George (Shishido) and George’s friends for a vacation getaway to a cabin in the woods. George’s friends are, to use the most fitting description, despicable people. High schoolers with the mentality of much younger, they goad, humiliate and laugh at poor Alan all the way to the cabin. But it doesn’t stop there. When doomsday comes and they find themselves trapped and surrounded by terrifying creatures mentioned only briefly as “spiders”, Alan finds himself trapped with these cruel imbeciles, his only ally George having left for help long ago leaving Alan to the continued torment of the only other people he knows are alive and faced with having to decide which horror he would rather face.


Canary really is a very enjoyable piece of work to watch, which is saying something when a film makes you feel as uncomfortable, tense and claustrophobic as this does. The idea and the setting for it are perfect, the really closed-in nature of that grim and disgusting cabin setting coupled with its dark and moody atmosphere really evokes that real sense of inescapability. There is no place for Alan to retreat to, no safe haven from monsters either outside or indeed inside the cabin and it all works to create this ever-closer-to-the edge-of-your-seat build-up to the finale where you feel trapped right there with him.


And Canary also knows when it's better to leave a few things to the imagination. We all know the shark is scarier when we can’t see it and while again there are small hints of what the actual apocalyptic threat is here, the truly smart decision was to leave the what, the how and the why alone. Because the monsters roaming the woods outside were never likely to be as interesting, grotesque or scary as the three bullies Alan finds himself essentially captive to. Newman and Espinosa show off their deplorablility in their own right, throwing the barbs and verbal punches at Alan a fair amount themselves, but it’s Kang’s Nev that is the real monster here, a unique manifestation of the high-school bully you can’t ever run from, bored, angry and cruel and with Alan as the outlet, whom Leung makes so connecting and sympathetic that we’re practically screaming for him to take action. It’s great writing not just of plot but of well thought out characters that could easily have been caricaturistic, buoyed even more by equally applaudable performances.


The ending might leave you hanging on a hook, but they do say always leave them wanting more and with the performances, writing, camerawork and pretty much everything else as good as it is, Canary is a commendable seventeen-minute accomplishment.

About the Film Critic
Chris Buick
Chris Buick
Short Film
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