spiral | kurtis david harder | colin minihan | john poliquin | jeffrey bowyer-chapman | ari cohen | jennifer laporte | cult | ritual | supernatural | drama | mystery | thriller | gay | chandra west | lochlyn munro | ty wood | paul mcgaffey | thomas elms | canada
Director: Kurtis David Harder
Writer: Colin Minihan and John Poliquin
Starring: Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen and Jennifer Laporte
This is another movie that popped on to my radar when trying to check out movies that were getting some buzz before doing my end of year list for 2020. I knew that this movie was on Shudder and that it could potentially be dealing with cults. The latter is something that really interests me. Aside from that, I came in blind. The synopsis here is a same-sex couple move to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.
Now I do feel that the synopsis is a bit misleading. We start this movie off with a gay couple in the back of a car making out. Something happens, causing one of them to get out and the scene ends with the other one sobbing over the body.
We then shift to 1995. Here we have a gay couple of Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Aaron (Ari Cohen). Also with them is their daughter of Kayla (Jennifer Laporte). Aaron is her true father from a previous marriage. They’re moving from the city to this small town. Kayla isn’t thrilled as she is leaving behind a boyfriend.
The new family goes to settle in and we soon after meet one of their neighbors, Tiffany (Chandra West). She doesn’t realize until bringing over a flower that they are gay couple, but she is quite accepting. Not everyone is as nice though. Malik comes home one day from a run to see someone broke in and wrote a derogatory slur on the wall. He paints over it before Aaron sees it though. He also installs a security system which upsets Aaron as well.
It doesn’t help that the piece Malik is working on is ghost-writing something on Charles Darrylson (David LeReaney). He is someone who believes in the traditional family unit and in conversion therapy. Malik being gay is bothered by him and he no longer wants to write it. The break-in shakes him up as does seeing this creepy older man of Mr. Reinhart (Paul McGaffey). He tries to break in, but when Malik confronts him, the man might actually not be as crazy as he is letting on. He gives a piece of paper to Malik, but there is nothing on it.
More weird things start to happen like dead raccoons are found in the attic above Kayla’s bed. Their blood leaks through onto her. They meet Tiffany’s husband of Marshal (Lochlyn Munro) and Malik sees an odd picture of an ancestor of his along with an old book with a spiral symbol on the spine. Malik looks into what he thinks is going on, but are these things real or is he piecing together things that are unrelated. There’s a history of trauma that could be causing his mental break as well.
To shift over now to my thoughts on the movie, I really liked the premise of what we’re getting here. This movie looks like is trying to be progressive with what they’re doing. It is strategic to place it back in 1995. I say that as even though in 2020 where we are more accepting of things like same sex marriage or even just couples, we still aren’t there fully. Having this couple move to a small town is interesting since personally, I’m from a small town which tend to have more closed minded people. I do like though that Marshal and Tiffany are accepting of them. Part of this could be their liberal minded or just that they’ve gotten to know them.
I think I should focus next on Malik though. We keep getting flashbacks of an attack that he witnessed back in the day. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was Aaron that was with him, but we learn it was someone else. This really cut him deep, but I also think that it helped make him more vocal for not only his rights, but also that of gay rights as well. As I’m writing this though, I hate that I need to differentiate between the two. The break in at their new place triggers some bad memories and most of the weird stuff is happening to him. I like here that he’s descending into madness and that makes him unreliable. We see what he’s seeing, but we don’t know if it is real until the explanation.
I won’t confirm or deny if there is a cult in this movie or not, but I like how this handled. We see fairly early on that Marshal and Tyler are watching as a ritual is taking place in their house. Malik is watching from his place. It does involve a spiral by the way. The thing is there is a normal explanation when it is brought up afterwards. Since Malik is becoming unhinged, we can’t necessarily believe him. They do some creepy things with hooded figures as this goes on and I’ll be honest, part of what really pulls me into this movie is them. There are some great reveals that come from Malik’s investigation on top of that.
What I’m going to say next feels a bit weird, but I love how fast this movie goes. We really don’t waste a lot of time. It hooks me from the beginning and I’m there until the final reveal. I prefaced with this statement though is that I wish the movie slowed down just a bit. It plays a lot with black-outs where Malik doesn’t remember things that happened and we don’t necessarily know if some of them did or not. My issue here though I want a bit more back-story. I think it moves too fast where a bit more reveal would have made me like this even more.
To get away from the story now, I’ll go next to the acting. Bowyer-Chapman I thought did really good job as our lead. He just has a solid screen presence. What really works though is we establish him and then we see him as he descends into madness. With how it is presented, I felt bad for him. I wanted him to be able to prove things, but the logical explanations are all against him. That worked for me. Cohen is solid as the counterpart to him and the rock of the family. We need him grounded in reality. Laporte is solid as the daughter. I like that she loves her progressive family, but also she makes bad choices as a teen will do. Wood, Munro and West are good as this family that could be harboring a secret. The rest of the cast rounded this out for was needed in my opinion as well.
That will take me to the last part of the movie I want to delve into which would be the effects. We don’t really get a lot of them to be honest and I’m not mad about it. This helps to play with the idea that nothing could be happening and allows me to piece things together. What we do get was done practical and I thought the blood we get here was really solid looking. The cinematography is also well done, especially with the editing to show us as someone is blacking out. There could be a bit of CGI, but if there was, it was seamless and I didn’t have problems there.
Now in conclusion, I thought this movie has some really good aspects about it. I love the idea that there could be a cult in this town doing things or that we have someone who was traumatized in the past sinking into madness from a triggering event. Regardless of how it plays out, the acting really helps to bring this to life as well. If I have an issue though, I feel that the movie could have been deepened a bit with more stories added to it as that’s what I find to be more interesting. It just seems to gloss over things. I think that the soundtrack works for what was needed and the effects along with cinematography were well done. I’d say that despite what it is lacking, it is still an above average movie.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10