October 3, 2020 Spiral (Movie Review)
Premiering exclusively on Shudder as of Thursday, September 17th, Spiral is a new Queer Horror film from Kurtis David Harder (What Keeps You Alive 2018, Harpoon 2019) that teeters on psychological and supernatural.
Set in the ’90s, it delivers a socio-economic tale that follows a same-sex couple that move to a small town with their daughter where things are not quite as it seems. That said, it all starts with two teens sharing a tender moment in the backseat. Tragically, this before they are met with blinding headlights revealing that the lovers are both male, and a violent scene breaks out before transitioning to present-day.
The now married Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman: American Horror Story series, Canada’s Drag Race series) and Aaron (Ari Cohen: Map to the Stars 2014, It 2017), are travelling with their 16-year-old daughter, Kayla (Jennifer Laporte: Web of Dreams 2019, iZombie series). The minute they enter the Cleaver-esque town they are met with a brick to the window, a moment that should have been taken as an obvious omen.
The shift into their new life is not without complications. While Aaron seems to be settling in, along with his daughter Kayla, Malik appears to be more skeptical of their new neighbors; observing how their actions come off as ingenuine. The sly, backhanded comments, the way the neighbors marvel over them like circus animals, it is all very grating. In a similar fashion to Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out, these microaggressions are a slap in the face to marginalized groups. Comments like, “we haven’t had any of you in our town in a while,” are not as welcoming as you think it is.
As times goes on, Malik’s concerns grow as the incidents pile up. From being stalked by a strange elder in town, leaving cryptic notes and his equally as strange (and overly friendly) grandson, to the slur that was spray painted across their home. Malik is constantly gaslit as Aaron and everyone around him assure him that he is overreacting. His menial tasks of running errands and ghost-writing for an old white man with questionable ‘traditional’ values, are unable to distract him from the world around him that is growing increasingly more harrowing by the day. This is only heightened when Kayla unwittingly falls for a neighbor boy, Tyler (Ty Wood: BH90210 series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series), who Malik feels has ulterior motives.
Aaron is blissfully unaware as Malik continues to grow more unhinged as the days go on. The once happy and joyous Malik grows weary as paranoia sets in, especially once their neighbors start to show their true colors. It is subtle, almost to a fault because as the final act starts it is so jarring that it does not even seem like the same film. The film abruptly goes from mystery to horror in the matter of a few scenes and there is no way to prepare you for what is to come. That in mind, it is all very Rosemary’s Baby-esque when the evil lying beneath the surface finally comes to light.
Overall, Spiral is thought-provoking and tragic. Despite being set in the ’90s, it still manages to reflect our current day struggle for equality along with acceptance, and Horror has always been the perfect outlet to discuss such social issues. While the gradual decent into madness is skewed with subtleties, it still holds up as a solid Horror flick with an interesting story to tell. For those reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Spiral 3.5 out of 5 stars.