Spiral, not Chris Rock’s delayed SAW film, but Shudder’s latest addition, examines the horrors of being different in today’s society. The film follows very familiar beats, but still manages to get under your skin. A film that explores what it’s like to be gay in America, and how acceptance from everyone is impossible.
While hate crimes and riots continue in America, Spiral arrives at the perfect time. In fact, glimpses of an old hate crime are showcased multiple times throughout the film. This is done in order to highlight that a lot of people will not change, they will just get better at hiding their hatred. Of course, it is also a plot device used for one of our main characters. Directed by Kurtis David Harder, and written by John Poliquin and Colin Minihan. Spiral follows a same-sex couple, who move to a small town in order to raise their 16-year-old daughter with better social values. Sadly, this town isn’t as accepting as it appears and the neighbors are far from inclusive.
The film stars Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen, Jennifer Laporte, and Lochlyn Munro. Spiral starts off very promising, but when the twists are exposed, you might be a bit confused. Exploring cults is always fun with the horror genre, but it takes a more sinister turn here. Malik (Chapman) and Aaron (Cohen) are our two male leads, who move to this new town and are just looking for a fresh start. Malik is the one to look out for, as he was involved with the hate crime that the film will revisit. Overall, the writing from Poliquin and Minihan is fine, but there’s not enough done with Aaron’s character.
Aaron is white, and homosexual, so he doesn’t really suspect much from his new neighbors. However, Malik is not only homosexual but black as well. He instantly begins to feel like the odd one out, while Aaron doesn’t suspect a thing. If Aaron’s past had been explored like Malik’s, it would have made the film that much better. Once the town’s secrets are revealed, the narrative raises a couple of questions. In fact, a lot is left up in the air. Spiral misses a few marks due to a mixed bag reveal but thrives in addressing social horrors.
Chapman and Cohen are terrific in their roles, but Chapman steals the show as Malik. At first, Malik is thrilled to get settled in, but then one strange occurrence after the other changes the entire mood. The way Chapman captures Malik’s emotions are amazing and it helps the viewer connect with the character. Again, Cohen is great as Aaron, but his character isn’t developed much. Viewers will instantly connect with Malik and while clearly done on purpose, knowing the background of Aaron too would have been a nice touch.
Harder takes you on a very uncomfortable journey that many will compare to Jordan Peele’s Get Out. There’s tension, dread, and it just progresses as Malik and Aaron realize their error in moving to this new town. It really is unfortunate that the reveals weren’t more fleshed out. Once Malik finds out what’s going on, all of the unease that has been built up flat lines a bit. Still, Spiral is an effective social horror film overall, and it features solid performances from everyone. Also, Avery Kentis’ score during this film is magnificent and will keep you on the edge. Honestly, it is the only thing that helps maintain the tension once the reveals start happening.
Spiral wants to be like Get Out but stumbles slightly with its underwhelming finale. Despite all of its writing mishaps, this is a worthy addition to the list of social horrors. It is refreshing to see LGBTQ representation in this genre, and Harder will have you feeling uncomfortable from start to finish. Spiral effectively helps remind society that some people really only get better at hiding the hatred within them.