Leading up to talking about horror movies every weekday in October I got a Shudder account. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a streaming service that caters specifically to the horror genre. That’s actually where I watched Mandy after Amazon was a lagging piece of garbage! I don’t know if I’ll keep with it after the free month is over, but in the mean time it has been interesting to watch some Shudder exclusives like 2020’s Spiral, a queer horror thriller! Not to be confused with 2021’s Spiral, which is the revival of the Saw franchise.
Malik and Aaron are a gay couple who move to a small town with Aaron’s daughter, Kayla, in the long, long ago (1995). After Malik covers up some hateful graffiti someone tagged in their house, he begins to suspect that the neighbors are creepy cultists of some kind. Aaron thinks he’s overreacting, and the situation isn’t helped by Malik’s erratic behavior, seeing things like ghosts, and losses of time. Trying to investigate the history of the town uncovers that 10 years earlier a pair of lesbians met a grizzly fate, and Malik doesn’t believe the official story of it being a murder/suicide. He and Aaron have a falling out over Malik maybe having bondage sex with a neighbor, and it comes to a boiling point when a deranged Malik fatally shoots neighbor Marshal (Mr. Lochlyn Munro) during Kayla’s birthday party. He’s jailed, but a still living Marshal visits him to explain that Malik, Aaron, and Kayla were targeted because of the “otherness” of their gay relationship, and that his cult have targeted vulnerable minorities for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, Aaron finds some evidence Malik left behind that Marshal and his family haven’t aged a day in 10 years, but is too late to stop Marshal’s son from ripping Kayla’s chest open and eating… her heart makes the most sense, but possibly all her internal organs. Cut to 2005 when Middle Eastern family moves into the same house, and the daughter comes across evidence Malik hid before his death.
Malik and Aaron were an adorable couple, and I really didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. Extra points are given for Malik’s actor–Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman–actually being a gay man! A gay playing a gay? How unfortunately rare. I couldn’t find anything about the personal life of Ari Cohen (Aaron), so I can’t say for sure that the main couple were both gay actors. Anyway, they were great! Malik’s friendly and at times casual relationship with Kayla is adorable, and the whole family is hashtag goals.
The rest of the movie… has issues, though. The title really has nothing to do with the movie. The cult’s symbol is a spiral, but it’s rarely brought up. Early on there were excessively loud musical stings letting you know something creepy is about to happen, and like, fuck, we get it! Tone it down a bit! And then there’s the element that it sure was convenient for the cult that a gay couple moved into their neighborhood right around the 10 year mark, and that a Middle Eastern family did the same a decade later. Was Marshal and his cult orchestrating things? Did they somehow reach out to Aaron and convince him that this was a great place to move to? It’s required for the plot, but my suspension of disbelief was stretched. Yes, even more than the idea that Marshal’s son has been a teenager for hundreds of years and thinks this is a good thing.
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