The Canyon (2009)

OCTOBER 20, 2009


A show I really liked was Discovery’s I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which re-enacted the actual predicaments that people found themselves into while venturing into nature (getting lost, getting injured/trapped, battling surprise elements such as freak storms while at sea, etc). Not being a very nature-y person, it helps re-assure me that I am much better off adventuring at home (do I play Xbox, or watch a DVD?) and also that I am NOT the dumbest person in the world, as some of these folks appear to be mentally disabled. But none of them were ever as idiotic as the two main characters in The Canyon.

If you thought the folks in Open Water 2 were candidates for the Darwin Awards, then these morons will likely get the lifetime achievement. They are pretty much the only two people in the movie (3rd billed Will Patton only sticks around for the first half hour), and the plot (losing their supplies, their guide, and instantly getting lost in the Grand Canyon) is seemingly designed to show an audience every wrong thing they can possibly do when they find themselves in any sort of dangerous situation.

First of all, they are the types of movie people who will never once re-attempt a perfectly good plan if something goes wrong. For example, they are climbing a rock wall (one with ample foot holds and such, and even a few full blown ledges where they could stop to rest), but a typically idiotic decision on their part (to attempt a 911 call halfway up, a maneuver that involves both characters using only one hand to hold on to the wall, and then LEANING OUT AWAY FROM IT to get a better signal!) results in them falling. He’s badly injured (foot trapped), but she’s fine. So does she try again? Nope, she decides to drag him (after cutting off his foot in a moment that resulted in me whistling the Saw theme and annoying those around me) to safety.

Of course, for this, she builds him a stretcher. But when they are menaced, the stretcher breaks. Does she make another? Nope, now she fashions a crutch and makes the injured guy walk. This, unsurprisingly, exhausts him, and now he’s too weak to move. Does she go on alone? Nope (spoiler), she smothers him to death, in order to rip off The Mist (rescue arrives about 12 seconds later). If there is a single moment in this film that her character did something intelligent, I must have missed it, probably from still laughing at the idiotic thing that preceded it.

Screenwriter Steve Allrich seems equally intelligence-starved, considering how real-world logic-free the script is. They have no water, but they manage to survive 3 days in the desert with only some chapped lips to show for it. Our couple is constantly menaced by wolves, who hunt them in both day and night alike and are attracted to their campfires. They also graciously take turns when attacking; one will strike while the other three in the PACK just sit around. He also seems to forget about the concept of texting, an act that would allow them to compose an SOS that would automatically send once a signal was available.

Another issue with the script is that the couple, despite being brain dead in every other sense, never stops making “cute” little ironic jokes to each other. “Don’t go anywhere”, she smirks to her trapped husband. “I want to jump your bones,” the now footless man says to her later. Every scene has at least one such line, and by the 10th time I began to long for the hateful, never-affectionate couple of Children of the Corn (that I just saw Corn star David Anders in the far superior The Revenant didn’t help).

Allrich is apparently well-versed in mule permit regulations though, since the word “permit” and discussion over whether or not one can be obtained during May (best time is in January, we are told) takes up more screentime than the damn wolves. I started to get the idea that he was refused a mule permit in the spring and decided to write this movie as a plea to the Mule Permit Committee to show them the possible consequences of their seasonal restrictions.

The film’s one saving grace, unsurprisingly, is Will Patton’s delightful turn as a kooky old tour guide who drinks on the job, bears scars from nearly every animal in existence, and is seemingly the only one with a brain (he knows exactly what to do when bit by a snake, for example. These morons would likely try to rub salt in the bite mark.). Of course, he’s not long for this world, and the film’s only legitimate source of entertainment dies along with him.

And it’s a shame, because along with Patton, everything else about the movie seems correct. It’s well shot (though they need to relax with the fucking dissolves to the skyline), the actors are capable and, prior to their predicament, largely believable, and the concept is perfectly fine (I was actually relieved that Patton turned out to be a good guy; I assumed he was going to be a villain and this would be some sort of Timber Falls deal). And the score is quite good as well, for what it’s worth. But the completely inane script just kept me shaking my head in anger (or simply laughing) at nearly every single event in the film’s 2nd and 3rd acts. I’m hardly the most unforgiving person when it comes to script logic (hmm, what other movies has Will Patton been in....), but when you’re telling a grounded, “real” type story, you gotta make sure your characters behave in the same manner. That’s why I don’t care if no one in Armageddon acts like a human being, they’re carrying out an illogical plot using science that doesn’t exist. That’s why that movie works and this one is damn near worthless.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. This is a superb review and you make some excellent points that I'd forgotten (the texting option, the script's reliance on constant cute banter that has no relevance to anything).


    However, you neglect to mention that she doesn't just cut of his foot, she abandons him and hikes a day's journey to get the knife that they buried with Will Patton's corpse, then she walks back with the knife, and then she cuts off his foot to free him from the, uh, rock that he's wedged next to. Even in a film this inane, you have to wonder, what? Really?

    The director didn't do a Q&A after the screening, but if he had, that's what I would have asked him.

  2. Why on earth would you knowingly annoy the other people at the screening?

  3. I didn't 'knowingly' annoy anyone. Considering that people were laughing at not-funny parts and such, I didn't think quietly whistling 3 notes would be an issue. If you were that annoyed person, then I apologize for ruining your THE CANYON experience.

  4. I'm just surprised you didn't say there was a cute ironic joke before she smothered him, where he said she's taking his breath away.

  5. I knew there was a movie rule about how gangs can't actually, you know, *function as a gang* when going after an individual, that they're required to attack one by one, so as to prolong the fight and give the individual a chance to win.

    But I had no idea this rule applied to wolves. That must be very hard to enforce.


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