Tin Can is the third movie I have seen this year to strand a female lead in a confined setting with a sci-fi tinge to the proceedings, after both Oxygen and Meander. Unlike those other two movies, Tin Can flounders in the execution. The script favors style over substance and uses the backdrop of the pandemic to make sense of its nonsensical plot machinations.
A backstory exposition dump near the beginning plunges us straight into this dystopia. Supposedly, a coral outbreak in rural Canada has spread across the world, leaving humans to desperately hunt for a cure. The outbreak is a deadly plague, one that presents as a parasite that overtakes your body. From here, the introductory section is laboriously slow. I kept waiting for our lead, played by Anna Hopkins, to end up trapped and get the narrative moving.
A parasitologist, Fret Greyl (Hopkins), wakes up attached to a bunch of wires. Accompanied only by the voice of another man there with her, Fret has no choice but to blindly follow his direction. He asks if her body is numb, and states that she has been “pumped full of the antifreeze.” Fret does not recognize the space she is trapped in, but observes that it looks “industrial”. People are being taken out of their confinement by “angels” and dragged off never to return—Fret has to figure out why she is here and who has trapped them. Is there a way to get out of this alive, or is it all one big inescapable human trial?
While the acting is perfectly fine, it is the nightmarish visuals that keep Tin Can entertaining. The thought of pulling an initiation tube out of one’s mouth is enough to make you gag just thinking about it. Golden bodies, Dalek-esque robots, and a big needle in your genitals… who wouldn’t want to spend a day in this hellish version of captivity?
Nearly everything else does not work. A constant narration and characters communicating in their confinement favors telling over showing. Spinning, intricate camera movements try hard to mask the obvious shortcomings. When the horror emerges from its cocoon in the final act, the film has already exhausted too many options to get properly invested.
Tin Can is the rare horror film bursting with so many interesting ideas and creative stylistic choices that it buckles under the pressure. It flirts with body horror in fresh and exciting ways, but it takes far too long to reach the finish line. At nearly two hours, Tin Can feels bloated in the way it tries to be and do everything all at once. With a leaner runtime and a more concise conclusion, this would be a 2021 horror gem. “I thought there’d be a way out of this,” one of the characters opines. Me too, my guy.
Tin Can screened at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.