A socially conscious horror film that addresses homophobia, trauma, and other issues facing our community, Spiral (directed by Harpoon producer Kurtis David Harder) hits Shudder today, and it’s pretty damn spooky. Set in 1995, the story follows interracial gay couple Malik (the excellent Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) an Aaron (Ari Cohen) as they relocate to a small town with Aaron’s teenage daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte). At first, the neighbors (Lochlyn Munro and Chandra West) seem welcoming enough, but Mailk (a hate crime survivor) quickly senses something a bit off and spirals into a fit of paranoia after receiving an ominous clue from a creepy old man in the subdivision.
Spiral’s first hour excels in building suspense at every turn, but suffers every now and then from an underdeveloped screenplay. Characters do completely implausible things more than once, like early on when Malik doesn’t tell his partner someone broke into their house and sprayed the word FAGGOTS on the wall. Instead, he paints over the slur and installs an expensive security system. This is just one example of behavior that just doesn’t line up with normal human reactions and are there simply to advance the plot. Despite a few issues in that department, the film remains totally watchable and engrossing thanks to a sensitive performance from Bowyer-Chapman – the story puts his character through a lot and he delivers in every scene.
Spiral’s cinematography serves lovely wintertime vibes, and is subtle when it comes to communicating its mid ‘90s setting. There’s turtlenecks, a “2 Legit 2 Quit” mention (look it up, Zoomers), and some clunky computers and VHS tapes mixed into the storyline, but it’s all pretty restrained for the most part.
Although one has to suspend a lot of disbelief in the final stretch once the film finally explains what its name means (while revealing more about why it’s set in this decade) and the last act doesn’t fully go as wild as you’d expect, one image near the end is quite shocking and hard to shake from memory. Ultimately, we’re left with an entertaining Get Out-meets-Hereditary hybrid that also manages to make a timely and profound statement about America’s dark, prejudiced history.
Spiral is out today exclusively on Shudder.