In Spiral, Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), his partner Aaron (Ari Cohen) and daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) move to the suburbs for a change of pace and a chance to escape the pressures of city living. However, their hope for a peaceful life is soon interrupted when Malik notices strange looks from his neighbours and a worrying, late-night celebration ends in death.
Most obviously, Spiral explores the fear and worry that can come with being in a same-sex relationship. It’s 2019 and to be gay, a lesbian, bi or trans-gender can still come with backlash and judgement – usually from people who will be entirely unaffected by anyone who falls into that category, but that’s a discussion for another day.
In a similar to vein to Jordan Peele‘s social-commentary horror Get Out, one of Spiral‘s strength is in its mystery; what are the townspeople doing? Do they hate gay people? Or is it something else entirely? In the film’s clever climactic sequence all these questions are answered and the eventuality is as shocking as you’d expect.
Writers Colin Minihan (It Stains the Sand Red) and John Poliquin (Bitten) do well to use Get Out as an inspiration without entirely copying its intentions. There is possibly one moment that subtly mimics the running man moment in Peele’s effort – and it’s very effective, because of Get Out – but otherwise, Spiral has its own identity and wears it loud and proudly.
Spiral‘s themes are depressingly timely and its exploration is one of heart-breaking realism, but that only cements the film as necessary viewing. As important as Get Out, Spiral is a horror film of the times we’re currently living in and is all the more terrifying for its grounding in a harsh reality. It’s a more emotional and sadder story that edges towards the drama genre as its feet stand firmly in horror. It never steps into comedy like Get Out did, so what we have here has a similar message and drive, but is a different beast entirely. It is one that is wholly serious and sadly, very scary.
In videos watched by Malik – who works from home as a ghost writer – to “disrupt the nuclear family” can come with consequences. This idea is placed at the base of the film, neatly inserted and repeated to give us an understanding of Malik’s lessening grasp on reality and quickening descent into a place of dangerous paranoia. Spiral satirises statements and beliefs such as this, confidently showcasing a family that is strong despite deviating from these supposed societal norms.
During an early scene in the film we learn that Malik’s teenage boyfriend was the victim of a hate-crime; brutally beaten while the pair shared an intimate moment. It was after this that Malik’s fear was born, furthering our understanding for his eventual drastic action. It’s heart-breaking to see Malik succumb to his fear and thanks to a powerful performance from Bowyer-Chapman, it is easy to empathise and understand the pain he’s going through.
The only quibbles I have with Spiral are minor. It’s perhaps a little too long, with a few moments in the middle that could have done with a bit of a trim. However, as the majority of it is so gripping, it is easy to forgive and easy to understand why a film like this is not just an 80-minute by-the-numbers scarefest.
Thanks to a strong central performance from Bowyer-Chapman and a great cast in general, Spiral manages to pack an emotional punch and it’s certainly one that you’ll not forget for a long time after receiving.