A same-sex couple move to a small town so they can enjoy a better quality of life and raise their 16 year-old daughter with the best social values. But nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood. And when Malik sees the folks next door throwing a very strange party, something shocking has got to give.

Cast:  Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen, Jennifer Laporte, Lochlyn Munro, Chandra West, Ty Wood, Thomas Elms

Directors: Kurtis David Harder
Writers: Colin Minihan, John Poliquin

It’s not the rebooted Saw film (unfortunate name double up there) but Spiral does deal with torture of a different nature. The continuous cycle — a spiral, if you will — of racism, prejudice and the rotten core that has spread deep into the fabric of America. What Spiral fumbles in terms of unique scares, it more than makes up for in a constant state of dread built upon real-world themes. 

The film begins with flashes of the past. Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) witnessing the beating of his boyfriend. Flash forward some years an older Malik is now moving to a new town with current partner Aaron (Ari Cohen) and Aaron’s daughter, Kayla(Jennifer Laporte). All seems normal at first. A safe fresh start for the family in a small town. But soon Malik begins picking up on small details. The stare of an old-man across the street. A subtle racist remark from a neighbour. These people who are presenting themselves as friends aren’t as friendly as they’re acting. When Malik returns home to find “f***t” painted across the living room wall it’s past being subtle turns of the head and remarks. 


Aaron doesn’t take to Malik’s mistrust of the neighbours. He thinks Malik is overreacting based on his past trauma’s. Which could be true, he starts blanking out due to stress and a lack of sleep. But it’s impossible to look past the facts and something is not right in this new town.

At a dinner party, one of the neighbours, Marshal (Lochlyn Munro) says that it’s ridiculous how un-accepting some people can be of others. It’s about as believable as Bradley Whitford’s character in Get Outs’ “I have Black friends” scene. But that is the film most comparable to Spiral. Both are about prejudices and the deep-seated hatred of America. Surprisingly, Get Out is somehow more hopeful for the future. Malik in Spiral goes from telling Kayla to be “out and proud” and proclaiming that you should never change who you are at the start of the film to a heart-breaking moment mid-way through where he retracts everything he said, telling her that “people don’t change [their hatred], they simply get better at hiding it.”

There’s a constant dream throughout all of Spiral and the first half of the film is built upon typical horror tropes and jump scares. Although there is some inspired gore when it eventually happens. However, it is the reliance on cheap scares and not trusting the audience that lets down an otherwise good script and a great cast. The sense of dread would have been enough, but it seems director Kurtis David Harder couldn’t trust the build-up.

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman gives his best performance yet. A mesmerizing and heart-breaking performance as Malik, a man who goes from an out-and-proud gay man to a self-doubting, scared and lonely man backtracking on his words of wisdom. 

Spiral doesn’t present a pretty picture of modern-day America, nor does it present a happy outlook for its future. But it’s a horror film, after all, and what’s scarier than a neighbour’s subtle racism? Or that sly shake of a head when a gay couple kiss in a parking lot from a homophobic parent? These are real problems and they spread from one generation to another by a continued cycled of perpetuated hate. One generation to another. It’s up to us to put a stop to it and films like Spiral are a reminder of that.

Spiral releases on Thursday the 17th of September on Shudder


(Spiral screener provided for review)