Moving to another city is always a huge step because it means that you want to leave your old life behind and start a new one. Multiple questions are raging through your mind. Did you make the right choice? Will you get along with your neighbours? Is the neighbourhood as great as you think? These were also the questions the loving couple Malik and Aaron asked themselves when moving to a small town in America. Based on “Spiral” from director Kurtis David Harder (“Incontrol,” “Cody Fitz”), their move wasn’t what they expected it to be. While Harder’s latest movie peaks too early, it’s still one you will enjoy
Sitting in between unpacked moving boxes, Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), Aaron (Ari Cohen), and Aaron’s sixteen-year-old daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) are ready to settle in into their new beautiful home. Malik spends a lot of time at home as a ghostwriter while Aaron is much more away from their house. Therefore Malik gets to know the neighbourhood much better than his husband. While at first, many of their neighbours think that Malik is Aaron’s gardener (speaking of a stereotype), it seems that they’re welcoming the couple to their community in a heart-warming way.
However, it doesn’t take long before Malik realises that the neighbourhood isn’t what it seems to be. Finding sprayed rude words inside their home, hearing a strange noise, and being watched multiple times by their neighbours, there’s clearly something off. Malik is too afraid to tell Aaron that those weird things are happening, and instead, he crops it up. By doing so, he makes their lives even worse. Malik sees unexpected rituals, gets strange messages, and there are many more unexplainable sounds. Instead of finally opening up to his boyfriend, he starts taking pills to deal with the mysterious events. However, when his dark past comes and haunts Malik, his life becomes a living hell. Will he finally tell Aaron and escape out of this, or will things spiral out of control.
Harder clearly has a love for both movies about the LGBTQ+ (“Summerland”) and horror movies (“Z”). How it was time to combine both passions in one film. The result is a movie that you will undoubtedly enjoy, despite its flaws.
“Spiral” is set in 1995, and that setting is one of the strengths of this movie. Because of the lack of technology, the film gets a very authentic vibe. Even more so when there are no newspapers, phones, and internet available, the characters need to go to the library instead of using Google and use brains instead of Alexa or Siri. There are also topics such as LGBTQ+, an interracial couple, and what’s like to be an outsider in a little American city with sadly too many small-minded people.
Casting director Tiffany Mak (“William,” “The Buddy Games”) did a terrific job as the cast of this movie is top-notch. Bowyer-Chapman (“Tao of Surfing,” “Lucille’s Ball”) puts his shoulders underneath this film terrifically. He knows Malik inside out. The struggles, the different emotions, and the determination. Yep, Bowyer-Chapman certainly gives an outstanding, layered and nuanced performance. Cohen’s (“It: Chapter Two,” “Mouthpiece”) performance is also very stunning but a different one. Aaron is the more rational of the two. He didn’t have to go through a rough childhood, and because he wants to set an example for this daughter because of that, Cohen’s performance needed to be more straightforward, and relatable and that’s precisely what it is. Laporte (“West of Hell,” “Clinger”) brings more teenage emotions, a female touch, and some wittiness to this movie, and she wonderfully does that.
The biggest flaw of “Spiral” is the ‘early’ climax. The movie either peaked too early, or it was just a little bit too long. There are two big reveals in “Spiral,” and while both of them are created very well, it feels like the events in between them could have done with a bit more care.
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“Spiral” is now available on Shudder.