VIFF ’21 Review: ‘Tin Can’ is a great example of doing a lot with limited resources

In the not too distant future, a global outbreak of a parasitic fungus is devastating humankind. Not content to merely kill you, it latches onto your body, sprouts growths and spores, and changes you into something else entirely. This is the world of Tin Can, one that is in many ways not unlike our own: a world with a raging pandemic, with some people who want to solve the problem and some content merely to avoid it.

As ever, the cinema of the age of COVID-19 speculates what a world might look like under similar circumstances to ours, and Tin Can takes a look at one of those dark futures.

As the film opens, Parasitologist Fret (Anna Hopkins) is working on defence from the fungus, dubbed “the coral”. Her husband John (Simon Mutabazi) works for a company that sells the fantasy of cryogenic preservation for those afflicted; put yourself in a tin can, come out when there is a cure. This is an option Fret openly campaigns against, but in the moments that her work starts to show promise, she is jumped, is knocked unconscious, and wakes up in one of her husbands tin cans.

Anna Hopkins in Tin Can.

The first half of the film is a riveting display from Hopkins. Shot in claustrophobic angles that highlight the confined space she is in, and all the other characters being only disembodied voices from the other tin cans around here, she has to carry the whole story, and she is more than adequate to the task. The quiet moments of fear, frustration, and desperation are the most palpable. Then, as the mysteries of both the tank she is in and the people around her come into focus, her determination becomes crystal clear.

It helps that she has some good talent to work with, including Canadian legend Michael Ironside. We only get a few moments of screentime with him in person, but his distinctive voice lends weight to his interactions with Hopkins.

I can’t tell you exactly what happens, but the second half of the film turns into something much different, and although the final twist isn’t a huge surprise, the execution to get there is effective. This is primarily thanks to Seth A. Smith’s direction and how much the production team could accomplish on a limited budget. The world of Tin Can is full of hoses that ooze slimes and sludges, tubes that vent steam and drip water. It’s dark, windowless, and populated by people in distinct metal armour that feels uncomfortable even from the outside.

And that is Tin Can in a nutshell. Distinct and compelling body horror set in a unique and well-realized world. It’s dark and unsettling and uncomfortable, and it’d be worth seeing just for those things, but it also has a good lead performance. Canada has a reputation for excellent genre films, and this is one that we will likely be talking about for some time to come.

Tin Can played as part of the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival.


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