The director of TIN CAN (Seth A. Smith) can be heard in the commentary saying that if there isn’t a chance for catastrophic failure on a project, it probably isn’t worth it. And while the film is unexpectedly tinged with real world catastrophe, the movie is far from being one.
I mean, this frame alone is worth it, so just imagine the other 2,495.
TIN CAN is Smith’s third outing as a feature film director. Here he continues the tonal balance of existential dread and hopeful longing seen in both LOWLIFE (An exploited girl helplessly addicted to a substance you absolutely will never guess) and THE CRESCENT (A mother and child coping with the loss of someone…or is it the other way round?) Love and fear constantly dancing with one another in an unsettling yet romantic landscape. In fact, Smith calls TIN CAN a love story in reverse.
Seth himself says this movie technically has a happy ending, so no need to worry, right?
TIN CAN is a story of a virus, the company trying to preserve life during the pandemic, and the relationships of the people who work there, all of which are placed under the microscope and sealed away.
Did I mention this was all conceptualized before Covid?
No. Really. I would say you can’t make this up, but they literally did.
The virus in question, “Coral”, and the film it’s contained in were all well into production just as the coronavirus began to affect the real world. So much so in fact that the theme of preservation spilled over, causing the film itself to be preserved in its own tin can come time to hit the festival scene.
Writer Darcy Spidle, Producer Nancy Urich, and Director Seth A. Smith at the screening of TIN CAN on 9/21/21, over a year after the film’s official release.
So one might think the eerie similarities in the first half of the film are a reflection of our time spent isolated from one another when in fact Cut/Off/Tail Productions should sue Covid-19 for copyright infringement.
Once you settle into the film however, you are given a wonderfully heartbreaking story about frailty, love, and the cost of being truly human, both good and bad.
The story centers around a scientist named Fret.
Played by the understated talent of Anna Hopkins to perfection, carrying a large portion of screen time on her own.
While making progress towards the cure for “Coral”, Fret loses consciousness unexpectedly, only to wake up inside the claustrophobic confines of a curious containment unit and soon discover she is surrounded by others in the same predicament.
Mondays. Am I right?
The movie itself is divided into two parts with each retaining the focus on confinement in such devilishly clever ways, I’d be a real a-hole to spoil the fun. I will however say that joining her on and off camera are Simon Mutabazi, Amy Trefry, legends Michael Ironside & Tim Dunn, and repeat offender Chik White (if that even is his real name) slowly becoming the “Doug Jones of Canada”. Seriously, it might be easier to point out the people in the movie who aren’t Chik White. Oh, and keen viewers can even find a cameo or two from some Trailer Park Boys alumni.
Given Smith’s background in music (The frontman of Dog Day), his aptitude for layering in genuine human emotion between the imagery and story (written by returning collaborator Darcy Spidle) presented to us is off the charts. The finer details are never wasted, and each frame, each line of dialogue, each meticulously created sound seem to hold multiple meanings that give the film some serious rewatch value. Each new viewing offers something missed the time before. A name here. A prop there. The film has a genuine sense of movie magic when it comes to the wonderment of how it was made on such a limited budget. It proves again that limitations make creativity grow like mold on a test slide. Luckily for us, both a feature length commentary and a behind-the-scenes documentary are included on the Blu-ray.
Spoiler alert for this review: You should go buy it.
And having a background in music doesn’t hurt when it comes time to compose the score. The award winning music is outstanding, proving again Smith is on the same level as John Carpenter when it comes to memorable film scores from directors. (Seriously, THE CRESCENT score is massively underrated). But Smith’s most certainly not the only chef in the kitchen.
Pulling countless duties alongside him are his wife Nancy (among many things, the film’s producer and member of Dog Day herself) and Darcy Spidle (the film’s writer, jaw harpist, and alter ego of actor Chik White). In fact this trio of many hats have been working together in some sort of holy indie trinity for over a decade, raising the independent film bar.
Look at ’em. Being all talented.
When all is said to be said and done, effective horror needs to have a heart in order for it to be felt when it’s ripped out, and the cast and crew of TIN CAN have given it heart. It’s a beautiful film that you can’t look away from, even in the presence of ugly truths that are inherently a part of life. Smith, a self proclaimed fan of Cronenberg, uses the distortion of human form to reveal the real people lying underneath just trying to find meaning in something outside themselves like flowers reaching for sunlight. TIN CAN not only asks us why we are more obsessed with trying to preserve the beauty of life than observing it, it asks us if we should bother preserving it at all risk the beauty itself losing value.
While it may only be seeing a proper release almost two years later, TIN CAN is a sci-fi horror lover’s treat that has an amazing shelf life, now and into the future.
TIN CAN is available for on all major digital services, or available for purchase on Blu-Ray either through Dread Central or directly from Fundog Productions where you can also find the score alongside other musical projects, including Dog Day. I personally recommend to all you Lynch/Cronenberg fans to snag the LOWLIFE/TIN CAN bundle that includes a digital copy of the TIN CAN score as well.