The Swedish thriller “Corridor” has been accurately described by co-directors Johan Lundborg and Johan Storm as an extended “Rear Window” homage with an emphasis on the implications sound rather than imagery. The movie mainly adopts the limited POV of reclusive medical student Frank (Norwegian actor Emil Johnsen), as he lurks around his apartment and begins to suspect his neighbor has killed his wife. With the same basic premise as the Hitchcock classic, “Corridor” amounts a simplistic genre exercise that’s still effective on a small scale. Although hugely derivative, at least it steals the right tricks.
Frank (Johnsen) spends most of his time buried in books and attending class. The arrival of amiable neighbor Lotte (Ylva Gallon) gives him the opportunity to leave the cocoon, but the situation grows complicated when her noisy sex life seeps through the walls and the soft-spoken Frank struggles to withhold his frustrations. Lotte’s stern boyfriend (Peter Stormare) develops into Frank’s primary nemesis, and after overhearing a domestic dispute, Frank assumes foul play. The majority of “Corridor” inhabits his paranoia.
The movie’s slow-burn appeal owes much to the delicate sound design, as Frank listens intensely to the creaks in his ceiling and the distant thudding of footsteps in the hallway, constantly fearing the phantom menace of the man upstairs. Since the entire experience takes place from Frank’s perspective, it’s never quite clear if he’s actually in any danger or building circumstances out of his own fears. When he calls the police to report a murder, the motive behind their muted reaction remains ambiguous: We can’t tell if the cops are simply bad at their jobs or if Frank just comes across as a delusional loon.
Whether it’s Frank’s safety or sanity at stake, eventually the tension breaks in a series of tightly contained chase sequences. Lundborg and Storm utilize the apartment’s hallways and staircases with amusing dexterity, as Frank rushes down the stairs and creeps back up them to evade his alleged foe. Both klutzy and brash, Frank makes for a hilariously pitiable anti-hero whose misadventures veer from suspense to slapstick — and sometimes combine them.
Since his predicament has much to do with the constrained environment, “Corridor” loses its edge anytime it changes the scenery. When Frank goes to class, the lingering sense of danger dissipates. The filmmakers back down from taking their experiment to the next level — or, rather, from taking it to the one level that works, akin to recent entrapment narratives like Rodrigo Cortez’s “Buried,” where the duration of the action unfolds in a coffin.
Nevertheless, “Corridor” sticks to its strengths and sustains the dark tone. Frank always seems to make the wrong decisions, and Johnsen gives him a consistently nervous expression to underscore his erratic behavior. The chilly atmosphere hangs in the air from start to finish, thanks to the skillful evocation of Frank’s panic-stricken outlook. By the end, he’s hardly a symbol of virtue, but we’re stuck with him anyway.