The latest film from director Kurtis David Harder (he also produced What Keeps You Alive and Harpoon), the narrative follows a same sex couple who move to a small town in the mid-90s and set out to make a life for themselves in their new community. But things (as can be expected) aren’t quite what they seem and the family slowly comes undone, as prejudices come out and unseen forces begin to have an effect.
There is much to admire here with a film with a lot on its mind and a finger firmly on the pulse of American culture. Although set 15 years ago, Spiral feels firmly like it is speaking to audiences today, offering a perspective rarely seen in genre cinema. An effective script from Colin Minihan (one half of The Vicious Brothers) and John Pliquin establishes a likeable set of characters that manages to ground a film that can, at times, become unwieldly with what it is exploring. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Ari Cohen as our central couple have a warm, lived-in chemistry, with each performer bringing depth and emotional nuisance to their roles. Jennifer Laporte is particularly captivating as the couple’s daughter and you could easily watch the trio interact and play off each other for the film’s entire run time.
It is this reason why Spiral’s first act feels the most effective. But as proceedings complicate and the film dabbles with horror subgenres the narrative feels on shakier ground. It takes too long to reach its reveal and leaves not enough of its runtime to explore it. And yet, once the climax hits and Harder’s film plays its final hand it leaves an impression that lingers long after the credits. The horror lands a punch and you wish there had been more time to properly wallow in it.
Exquisitely shot by horror staple Bradley Stuckel (Still/Born, Z) Spiral is a haunting watch, with an atmosphere that prickles the hairs on the back of your neck. Giving a voice to concerns rarely raised in the horror genre, it is a commendable piece even if it doesn’t quite all come together. But when the film works it is one of the most interesting of the last few years.