Queer Horror ‘Spiral’ Preys on Primal Fears By placing audience in the role of “other”

Spiral preys on the horrors of helplessness, isolation and sanity being called into question. How can you save anyone, let alone yourself, if nobody trusts your sanity? Director Kurtis David Harder touches upon raw, exposed psychological terrors in rapid succession.

We journey from fear, to the entirely unapologetic mantra of “Choosing to live your life out and proud is about the bravest thing you could do in this world” and back to the terrified, “It is not safe to speak out or speak up.”

A same-sex couple (JEFFREY BOWER-CHAPMAN and ARI COHEN) leaves the big city for quiet small town life with their teenage daughter (JENNIFER LAPORTE). Idyllic. Serene. Uneventful. Not a chance. After some good old fashioned voyeurism and sleuthing, the mysteries begin to unravel. But that’s not all that’s unraveling here.

There are sinister forces at play. But perhaps even scarier than that, is the internal de-evolution of thought, reverting back to the belief that, “The world is exactly the same place as it was back then. People don’t change, they just get better at hiding how they feel.” What an absolutely horrific belief. After all the work, and all the progress, to think that the bigotry remains, ever present, lurking hidden just beneath the surface rather than in broad daylight. Which is scarier then? The illusion of progress, and being befriended by those who would crucify us, or having all of that out in the open so we know who’s who and what’s what?

There’s nothing gratuitous here. Instead, it’s a new examination of some possibly familiar tropes, viewed through a fresh lens; thus becoming an even more terrifying experience. Moving through time, we are given the opportunity to compare the now and then of that perspective. Another refreshing element of this is the normalcy of this family. A teenage girl who happens to have two Dads. All the mundanities of a suburban family dinner, endearing relationship between child and step-parent, the love between two partners and their daughter. The desire to create a safe, quality, small town life for a family. There’s nothing extreme, in fact, it’s not such a far cry from the traditional nuclear family model. With a twist, sure, but the similarities run far more rampant than the differences. Spiral preys upon the primal fear of the “other”, by effectively placing the audience in the shoes of that “other”.

People have their minds made up they’re afraid of you and when the tides change there will be someone else to be afraid of.

As Malik fights to save his family, his reality begins to shift and his safe spaces are called into question. The real horror here is the villainous message that xenophobia is a wheel, a cycle. A spiral. That it is human nature to fear. In our nature to fear “other”. This strikes the rawest of nerves and drudges up deep-seated terror. How do we escape a monster we cannot outrun? And when it chews us up and spits us out does it simply move onto the next and the spiral continues endlessly? If this monster follows us through time and space, does it ever really go away, or does it only shift a little, maybe settling onto some new target?

But as strong as that spiral may be, the resistance is even stronger. And in the greatest acts of rebellion, Hope is never silent.

Kurtis David Harder’s Spiral is now streaming on Shudder

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