"The turmoil and difficulty that same sex couples faced in 1995, as well as different ethnicities. It is difficult not to notice those tones still existing within 2020."
Being a lover of horror, I couldn’t be more grateful for Shudder on Amazon. I have been subjected to some amazing films that I might never have come across if it wasn’t for this horror central platform. One of those films is Spiral! I stumbled across this gem randomly while going through the huge selection on offer. And with its mixture of suspense, anguish & blend of the supernatural/psychological, you never know what is coming. This is all helped by a central and powerhouse performance by Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman, in fact scenes without him feel entirely wasted. This is his story.
The fashion, polaroid cameras, huge PC computers, disc Walkmans and the complete absence of mobile phones, it is quite obvious we are in the 90s. 1995 to be precise. Malik is moving to the quiet picturesque countryside with his partner Aaron (Ari Cohen) and his teenage daughter Kayla (Jennifer Leporte). Aaron is the instigator in the move, with a supportive Malik on board and a reluctant Kayla in dispute. As we always expect of teenagers, when having to move away from friends and boyfriends.
"It has intelligence, suspense and a real sense of disturbance."
Malik suffers from PTSD due to a homophobic attack on him and his boyfriend Liam when they were young. This is felt throughout the film and directs it, as his paranoia and behaviour become more erratic. Because sadly the terror has followed him. Starting with a homophobic slur painted in red on a wall inside their house. Which Malik hastily covers this up without telling Aaron. This is when we are introduced to several characters from the neighbourhood, who only prove to add to Malik’s paranoia, as it seems this quiet place holds dark secrets of its own. This is when the film starts its downward spiral (no pun intended) into the nightmare that unfolds around Malik. But cleverly you are always left wondering and second guessing if this is what he is really experiencing or if his PTSD is playing tricks on him.
Spiral keeps you constantly on your toes throughout, the build-up of suspense is cleverly executed, with neighbours brandishing Stepford like smiles at social gatherings and a politeness which may hide something more sinister. It is especially terrifying in scenes where we see Malik jogging while his neighbours stop and stare as he passes, no smile, no expression… an ignorance that makes you question whether this is because of the colour of his skin or his sexuality. Overall it is a decent and often effective little horror that keeps you guessing. It has intelligence, suspense and a real sense of disturbance. With some exceptional writing, fantastic acting and some incredibly atmospheric/powerful direction.
"With some exceptional writing, fantastic acting and some incredibly atmospheric/powerful direction. "
The themes throughout the film are a great talking point. The turmoil and difficulty that same sex couples faced in 1995, as well as different ethnicities. It is difficult not to notice those tones still existing within 2020, not forgetting what is currently happening across America and the world. Gay people and different ethnicities are not as safe as you’d think in 2020. Much has changed since 1995 you would feel, but has it really?