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John’s Horror Corner: Spiral (2019), an effective social thriller about good neighbors, bad experiences and paranoia.

May 5, 2021

MY CALL:  If Get Out (2017) is a social thriller, then so is this. Although Spiral is not in the same league. This was good. Even very good… but definitely not great in my opinion. But it surely succeeds at tactfully keeping you guessing.  MORE MOVIES LIKE SpiralThe Invitation (2015), Get Out (2017), Us (2019) and Them (2021, Amazon series) come to mind.

Having just moved to a somewhat rural town, Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman; Grave Encounters 2, American Horror Story) and Aaron (Ari Cohen; It, It Chapter 2) have a candid, lived-in relationship with their teenage daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte). Their parent-teenager dynamic rings all too true and sparks kind memories of my own adolescence.

The year is 1995. Selfies are taken with Polaroids, and same-sex couples are far from broadly accepted in small towns They soon find the locals are not accustomed to having a black neighbor any more than they are a same-sex couple. At one point we find the word “faggots” spray painted on their living room wall… my eye twitched and my heart sunk into my stomach dreading what may befall them in after this point in the plot. But please, don’t turn away at this trigger warning. This film has so many kind things to show us about its main characters and there is more than meets the eye to the story. We are left to wonder if the kindest neighbors are the most dangerous, or if they truly aim to steer Malik and Aaron from the neighbors with ill intentions, or if indeed any of the neighbors mean them any harm at all.

This plays out more like a thriller/mystery than the trailer may suggest. Strange things begin to happen that point to ‘strange’ motives in their neighbors (including Chandra West of Z, White Noise, Puppet Master 4-5; and Lochlyn Munro of Needful Things, Dracula 2000). Malik and Aaron have experienced hateful trauma in the past and are now fearful something similar may find them here… and that whatever hatred finds them will also befall their daughter.

If Get Out (2017) is a social thriller, then so is this. Although Spiral is not in the same league. This was good. Even very good… but definitely not great in my opinion. At least not compared to the wonderful horror releases of the last several decade.

Director Kurtis David Harder (Incontrol) opens strong, but I feel the second half of the film doesn’t deliver as promised. I found the end simultaneously unsatisfying (in concept) and satisfying (in execution). Most of the punch is packed in the first 60 minutes, and not so much the last 20, with much of the punch being the more casual social interactions with their neighbors.

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