Not to be confused with the upcoming and delayed Chris Rock “Saw” spin/off, this dark offering owes itself more to Jordan Peele’s GET OUT than the torturous games of Jigsaw….
Jordan Peele stole a march with his influential Oscar winning GET OUT, that its now becoming a film that many are starting to try to match, with their themes of “Social Horror” dripping strongly from the screen.
Spiral, Shudder’s new addition to its growing catalogue is no different, touching on a homophobic presence in what seems a nice and friendly neighbourhood in what starts off lacking in the scare department, soon builds into a dread of impending doom for the family involved.
While the 90’s doesn’t seem that long ago (but it was), the idea of being an openly gay couple back in 1995 wasn’t as greeted with open arms like it is now. For couple Aaron (Ari Cohen) and his partner Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer–Chapman), moving away from the big city into a small town, offers a chance of a new beginning. The area is quiet and the neighbours seem friendly, but for the viewer, each scene drips with atmospheric dread.
For Aaron, he is unaware of the prejudice that is surrounding his new found family, while Malik who has a bitter memory of how much hatred there is for the gay community, he can look past the false smiles that have greeted their arrival. Unknown to them both though that there is a far greater danger lurking in the shadows.
Much like how GET OUT explored the theme of interracial relationships, here we see how hard it is for two men who are deeply in love, to get on with just living a normal life. Even though Arron’s teenage daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) has accepted her dad’s new found life, walking into your own home to see graffiti of Gay Slurs on your wall, puts pressure on a new life you are trying to build, even though Malik tries his best to shield Aaron away from the growing hatred among those they share the community with.
You be forgiven in thinking that Spiral’s opening half relies too much on cheap scares to deliver the upcoming chills. Noises in the middle of night, shadows by the window to even a tree branch tapping away on a window, but you could put it down to false misdirection as even the most die-hard of horror fanatics will be wondering in what horror we are are heading towards.
The more Malik witnesses, the more fear of paranoia fills his bones and the film brilliantly starts to make us question if what is happening is all in his head. Is the past trauma he witnessed in a previous relationship making him lose a sense of reality? Why are people appearing in front of him and then in different rooms? Who is that haunted spectacle and why is the house across the road look as if they are dancing to a sinister ritual?
All these questions and more are brilliantly answered in a spell-binding last half that contains a stunning horror set-piece that literally took my breath away. Its very rare that this horror veteran is rocked to his core, but Spiral deliciously offers up a scene that had me applauding with glee, as it dripped with the most blackest and devastating of turns, that makes a mockery that a film like this gets a straight to streaming release.
Bowyer–Chapman is a revelation, his performance a tour de force and one of the best you’ll see in a horror flick in 2020. Like the title of the film suggests, as his life spirals out of control, we just want him and his family to escape the danger they face.
Do they? Is something you need to find out in what is no doubt one of the year’s best horror films…