Tension and paranoia are difficult to capture. That’s probably why it’s a rare commodity in film – or maybe it’s simply because filmmakers don’t have the patience and restraint required to craft something so carefully anymore. Bold statements about the current temperature of moviemaking aside, it’s still both refreshing and horrifying to see the legacy of thrillers done so proudly with this flick.
Corridor is Rear Window with sound instead of sight. It’s the story of a young medical student, Frank (Emil Johnsen), who keeps to himself, boarding up inside his apartment to study at night. When a woman named Lotte (Ylva Gallon) moves in upstairs, Frank is drawn into her life and her relationship with an abusive boyfriend. Frank hears the domestic violence through his ceiling and becomes a new target for the boyfriend (played by the always-unnerving Peter Stormare).
Writer/Directors Johan Lundborg and Johan Storm (since it’s a contractual obligation to be named Johan in the Swedish film industry) have deftly created something gripping that will drive fingernails deep into theater seat arm rests. Frank is not necessarily a likable character, but he becomes an instant everyman as an innocent victim who uses incomplete information about the situation to finally fight back. Most are not used to true physical confrontation, and this movie plays on that deficit in our civilized world like a tiger with a mouse.
It’s not a slow burn by any means. Even though it builds up from the beginning, it never drags or feels intentionally quiet. Plus, the ante is raised higher and higher until someone is going to have to leap off the cliff. It’s a lesson in how quickly a stranger can become a friend and how quickly that friendship can find you locked in your own apartment for fear of being beaten to death in the corridor by a giant hulk of a motorcycle-riding woman abuser.
On a quick note, the title is also perfect because the spiral staircase and the hallways of the apartment building become their own character – feeling almost more ominous than the dangerous psychopath who might be lurking around in them.
Beyond the tone and the strong performances, the fear is palpable because of how real it is. Something as simple as loaning a new acquaintance some laundry detergent could easily drag you, for better or for worse, into someone’s life. We never know what baggage other people are carrying around, and whether or not that baggage might feel threatened and try to kill us.
Also, seeing a brute clamoring up the stairs with a claw hammer, hearing a lot of banging through your walls, and then watching him carry out heavy trash bags is straight out of the classic thriller playbook. Most of the movie takes place in the imagination of the audience, and that’s a powerful tool in delivering a tight story that scares the bodily fluids out of you. If I can be hyperbolic, but honest, what Jaws did for the water, Corridor might do for making new friends in your apartment complex.
Stay safely in your apartment and check out more Fantastic Fest 2010 coverage.