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Inside Out 2020 Review: Spiral

October 6, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The year is 1995, and Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) has just moved to a small town in Illinois with his partner Aaron (Ari Cohen), seeking a new life for themselves and Aaron’s teenaged daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte). But it’s not long before Malik, who still hasn’t recovered from the trauma of a violent incident a decade earlier, begins to suspect that something much more sinister is going on behind the idyllic facade of the small town.

Shortly after moving in, Malik comes home to find their house broken into and a homophobic slur painted on the wall. Then their superficially nice new neighbours start behaving oddly, including having a cult-like gathering that he observes through the window. As Malik starts investigating the dark history of the town, his paranoia increases, and he tries to convince an incredulous Aaron that something is very wrong. 

As a work of socially conscious horror, that casts a mixed-race gay couple as its protagonists and plays upon the real fear of being a minority in a small town, Spiral took me somewhat by surprise. The film’s director, Canadian filmmaker Kurtis David Harder, does a very good job of sustaining an incredibly unsettling and eery tone throughout, punctuated by a few solid jump scares. The screenplay by Colin Minihan and John Poliquin plays out with a series of twists and turns that keep us on edge, as Malik unravels a mystery that has dire consequences.

Bowyer-Chapman, an actor, fashion model, and one of the judges on Canada’s Drag Race, carries the film with an effective dramatic performance. For genre fans who are looking for a queer-centred horror film that explores themes of bigotry and homophobia, Spiral is an engaging and suitably disturbing piece of work that is worth checking out.

Jeffrey Bower-Chapman in Spiral

The 30th annual Inside Out LGBT Film Festival runs from October 1st to 11th, with online screenings available to anyone in Ontario, and some special drive-in presentations in Toronto.

Spiral is screening online until October 11th. Tickets can be purchased right here, and are available for free courtesy of CBC.

More Inside Out 2020 Reviews: I Am Syd Stone; CowboysDating AmberJump, DarlingShiva Baby (TIFF 2020)No Ordinary Man (TIFF 2020)Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story (Hot Docs 2020)There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace (Hot Docs 2020)The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (TIFF 2019).

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