October 21, 2009 / 9:45 PM / in 9 years

"Canyon" offers gruesome jolts, familiar story

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When a young couple decides to leap off the beaten path to explore nature in all its rugged extremes, you know they are heading for the vacation from hell.

This formula has been reworked in such films as “A Perfect Getaway” and “Breakdown.” In “The Canyon,” a so-so variation on a familiar theme, a pair of honeymooners are traveling by mule through the Grand Canyon when disaster strikes. This potboiler from Magnolia’s Truly Indie has some thrills, but it will not make much of a splash at the box office after it opens Friday.

Nick (Eion Bailey) and Lori (Yvonne Strahovski) are determined to trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But they neglected to secure a permit or reserve a guide in advance, so their honeymoon plans are in jeopardy. Just when they are prepared to abandon their quest, they meet a grizzled old codger in a bar, and Henry (Will Patton) offers to bend the rules and take them on their own private caravan through the canyon. They ignore a hundred warning bells to follow this rapscallion into the wild.

Dialogue is at a fairly primitive level, and though Bailey and Strahovski make an attractive couple, they aren’t going to be vying for any year-end acting awards. Patton, however, gives a shrewd performance in a fairly truncated role.

The film also has some scary set pieces: An encounter with a rattlesnake is bone-chilling, there are nasty wolves that threaten the honeymooners, and a scene in which they attempt to climb a jagged cliff crackles with suspense and leads to a shocking denouement. The end credits acknowledge snake, scorpion, vulture and crow trainers, and these guys definitely earned their pay.

Although the scenery is spectacular, the print screened for the press looked muddy. Maybe the movie will look better when it’s shown on DVD, which will happen soon enough. Although the script is rudimentary, there are just enough thrills to satisfy undemanding audiences looking for a few gruesome jolts of adrenaline.

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