(R. Brian Damude, 1975)
The slightly stilted, over-articulated acting of the early scenes could almost be a deliberate audience trap: soon enough the bottom drops out, quickly giving way to one of the finest and most affecting thrillers ever to come out of this country. Damude goes for Hitchcock gothic, taking the familiar motifs of guilt, desperation and mistaken identity and transposing them to the Ontario countryside. His means are more limited - no dazzling set pieces or spectacle of scale here. But his narrative devices are so ingenious and so incisive that very little is lost in the translation, and he really knows how to make a movie out of them - he is fully on top of his material. Cuckolded loser Dominic Hogan settles into a startling impersonation of a feral animal, but great performances are as beside the point here as they were for the master: all that matters is that the players execute their role in the schematic, and they all do at least that, as functional and precise as the accumulation of everyday props - a knife, a stick of wood, a milk bottle, a bucket of water - that give form to the characters’ inner lives. Even when the script cuts the cops an unexpected break at the denouement, it only serves to heighten the sense of haunting irresolution.