The Canyons – Paul Shrader and Brett Easton Ellis on the death of film. (Sydney Underground FFF review)

The Canyons is one of those films that is very difficult to define. Sure its bad.  Startlingly so. But given the talent behind the camera, its difficult to know how deliberately bad it is. There is something about the film that makes it one of those car crashes that may end the right way up once the car has rolled a few times. I can see it gaining some sort of cult following, because despite its “badness”, its difficult to look away.


I mean, the facts all add to up to a great film:

1. Paul Schrader – famous for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and directing Cat People and American Giglio – All good films.

2. Brett Easton Ellis – wrote American Psycho and Less Than Zero, and even though I am no fan of his novels, I do have a soft spot for Less Than Zero.

3. Lindsay Lohan – fresh up from the gutter and keen to look good in a sexy noir, what could be better than the good-girl-gone-bad looking gorgeous and showing a bit of skin?

4. James Deen – the only porn star in the world (ever) to have a devoted following of teen girls.


Given that Brett Easton Ellis wanted to make a “lower scale film” whatever that is, they funded it partially through kickstarter (!) and recruited actors off social media The Canyons was always going to be a bad film.  How it ended up being this bad in the hands of these people is hard to understand. Ellis script is certainly woeful, and no character has any opportunity to be properly developed, but there are other wonky aspects to the film also. Strangely, Shrader keeps popping in these images of decaying cinemas, and along side Ellis’ tacked on social media references and the cast constantly being on the phone, the major point of the film (whatever that is) is completely lost.

And yet, I can’t help the feeling I experienced a guilty pleasure with The Canyons.  I wanted to stop watching a couple of times and couldn’t bring myself to do so, no matter how much I knew what was going to happen in the end. Also, the film has that characteristic, so quirky and funny in poor films, of “out there” moments that leave you with a jaw drop of an experience.  A typical example of this is on one of the many restaurant meals Lohan has, a delivery truck speeds alarmingly around the corner narrowly missing the very section of restaurant where the filming is taking place. This shot is completely distracting in terms of point of view, and it is an error, at least I assume it to be because the truck never makes another appearance. Schraders decision not to edit this part of the film, and others like it, lead to a game of “spot-the-fuck-up” that I am sure would make me want to see the film again.


The Canyons is the final film to show at the Underground Film Festival, and all I can say is despite the poor reviews, get there if you can.

You can get tickets to The Canyons here.