Spiral (2020) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Spiral (2020) Review

Horrorific content by jessicagomez on September 21st, 2020 | Movie Review | Satanic Cults, Psychological, Suburb

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A same-sex couple move to a small town with their teenage daughter. The neighbors don’t seem to take kindly to a lifestyle that differs from their own - is any of it real?

Spiral was directed by Kurtis David Harder and stars Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs Jason and Poker Night), Chandra West (The Tooth Fairy and Z), Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (from Grave Encounters 2) and Ty Wood.

Fear is Everywhere

Spiral Review

Spiral caught my eye because of its name - did I somehow miss the digital release of the highly anticipated Saw sequel? I read the description and decided to give this one a watch, without reading anything more and with no expectations set - that perfect recipe for finding a horror gem. Drawing cinematic influences from Hereditary and Jacob’s Ladder, up and comer Kurtis David Harder delivered a psychological horror with unexpected supernatural elements via a trippy and socially relevant Shudder Original.

Malik and Aaron are a gay couple in the 90s. They are loving parents to Kayla, and for a change of scenery, the family moves to an affluent but mostly rural community. It isn’t long before Malik begins to experience some animosity from the neighbors coupled with strange blackouts, crescendoing into more and more dangerous circumstances.

The opening scene is a flashback to a hate crime on Malik’s boyfriend a decade prior. As a result of witnessing his boyfriend’s brutal assault, he’s dealing with post-traumatic stress, even though he appears to be happy-go-lucky most of the time. He’s constantly on edge with a suspicious and guarded nature. When a strange, elderly neighbor hands Malik a cryptic note, the next night he is found dead - and what’s more, Malik witnesses a cult-like ritual through the window of the same house before the man is found. The more digging he does, the more Malik begins to uncover about a strange set of occurrences in his new hometown that happens once every ten years. Spiral does an effective job making the viewer wonder if the neighborhood is truly a part of a ritualistic clan, or if Malik’s paranoia and mental health are just unable to adapt to change because of his former trauma.

The third act went in a direction entirely different from what I expected, and it played well to save the reveal for the very end. The viewer is kept in the dark as to what’s real and what any motivations may be throughout the entire film, keeping us constantly questioning and changing our mind about what’s real and what’s a figment of Malik’s imagination.

The casting in this film was high-caliber; Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman of American Horror Story is an absolute star across the board, from the range of completely confident in his own skin to the depths of fear and despair. Lochlyn Munro (Riverdale) is just meant to play the creep role, I guess, and Ty Wood (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), the James Dean-esque heartbreaker, has just the right amount of mystery and haunting quality.

Worth Watching?

It’s high-time for more LGBTQ main characters in horror cinema; there is obviously no shortage of horror stories to tell. Gay people are still, to this day, persecuted for simply living their lives, and, as highlighted here, it was worse in the 90s. From the covert phrase “we don’t have any of you here” to the overt spray painting of homophobic slurs on their property, the couple endured what many in this country still have to - and, as the film points out, from decade to decade there is always someone “different” for the white elite to prey on, utilizing superfluous fear for their own gain.

Colin Minihan and John Poliquin, known for their work on Grave Encounters, wrote a poignant script that heightened important social issues much like Get Out. Along with Harder’s artful direction, they turned these amplified fears into a quality, thoughtful, and atmospheric horror film. 

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