Set in the 1990’s this horror/thriller takes all the good parts of Get Out and Hereditary, smashes them together with some glorious gay themes, great acting and a gripping story to deliver one of the best gay centric horror films to date.
Spiral is set in the mid 90’s and focuses on a family consisting of Aaron (Ari Cohen) Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and their daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) who move from New York City to small town USA. Upon moving in Malik is still suffering from flashbacks from seeing his ex murdered in the street. The people of the town are surprised at how out and proud the family are. Particularly their neighbours Tiffany (Chandra West) and Marshal (Lochlan Munro) who welcome the family in and take them in under their wing. As strange things start happening around the town, the family must band together to survive cult like activities while uncovering the past.
The story comes down to Malik, he is the MVP here and has no issues commanding the screen. Chapman fits the role perfectly as he balances between doting father, loving husband, struggling stay-at-home writer and as he questions his sanity as the events of the movie unfold, the audience questions what is real and what isn’t. Cohen dips in and out of the leading role and is probably the less interesting character in the film. Laporte is perfect casting as she interacts with Malik and their next door neighbour’s son Tyler (Ty Wood).
The movie often hints that she is the main charater and while I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, the clever script keeps you guessing as more about the town and its sordid past come to the surface. Story wise the film does hit at a bit of a mix between Hereditary and Get Out, while it isn’t a straight up copy, it does take the best parts of each script and paves its own way by fusing in a queer family while building jump scares and a sense of mystery.
The films cinematography is gorgeous. Set in a dark and foggy town it is easy to establish a creepy aesthetic. Being set in a brand new house in suburbia in the 90’s has a lot of claustrophobic atmosphere. There are plenty of rooms for characters to hide in, but they are small and poky with nowhere to hide. This is half the fun of this film as it uses the setting to its full advantage.
Going hand in hand with the cinematography is the score. It’s sweeping and dreary, often imitating what is happening on screen building tension to a crescendo that adds to the horror of this film. The movie isn’t afraid to go into murky territory, the way it respectfully talks about sexuality and race is ground breaking. Even though it is set in the 90’s, the message still rings true today, which is well told in the final moments of the film.
Spiral is an extremely well made film. The outstanding performances, in particular from Chapman is worth the price of admission alone. One of the best things is the film’s not afraid to dive into racial issues that go hand in hand with sexuality. It is something that we are used to seeing in straight relationships and films, but the added layer of gay and coloured in a small white town is worth exploring, particularly when it is done right like it is here. Fans of the horror genre will enjoy the jump scares and thriller mystery perfectly guided by director Kurtis David Harder. If you are looking for a queer horror film that isn’t afraid to have some depth and leave an impression, this is the film for you.
Spiral is showing in Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. You can buy tickets here
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