HORROR DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEWS

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SPIRAL
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Reviewed by: Dave Murray

Directed by: Adam Green, Joel David Moore

Starring:
Joel David Moore
Zachary Levi
Amber Tamblyn

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Mason is one creepy fella. His only friend in the world is his boss at the phone bank, he clearly has a history of obsession and stalking, as well as the curse of a twisted family history and the gift of an artist's eye. It's too bad that he gets so involved with the girls that model for him, all in the same series of poses, that Mason has trouble letting go. Just what is he hauling to the dumpster in the middle of the night? Why do his models keep disappearing, before his friend has even met them? Why are they not being missed by friends and families? And is there any chance that his pretty and quirky new co-worker might be the one to break Mason's curse and allow him to live a normal life? I didn't think so either.
Is it good movie?
There are lots of things to be said about Spiral, and almost all of them are good. First of all, Adam Green is one hell of a film maker. After giving us the rock solid, gore happy kick to the balls that was Hatchet, he and his friends bring us... a psychological thriller? Yes, and the result is probably one of the most infectious and ultimately disturbing movies to come out this year. What this movie is, at its core, is a painfully detailed character study of someone whose grasp on reality has gone skipping away down Schizo Street, and how his own contained force of crazy affects those who are closest to him. What it also is is a movie that has been put together by a group of friends who are in love with the genre, and who manage to put together some damn fine work indeed. At the heart of the story is the performance of co-writer/co-director Joel David Moore as Mason, whose creepy as f*ck delivery carries the entire flick. Seriously, even without words, the dude is able to look sick in some fundamental way, conveying the torturous depths of mental illness with his eyes and his body language. The scary thing about his performance was that you never knew where he was going to go next, and this translated itself into the story very effectively. Some of the plot twists here are pure genius, and while I won't spoil them here, they play heavily into what is reality and what Mason believes is reality, which are sometimes at odds and sometimes not. Expertly done.

The rest of the cast is exceptional as well. Amber Tamblyn (Joan Of Arcadia, The Grudge 2) brings a quirky and fun vulnerability to her eponymous character. This girl's got talent, charisma, humour and a depth about her to go along with her looks, all things that a lot of young actresses don't seem to have these days. She kind of reminds me of a young Susan Sarandon here. Hers is a pivotal role and she pulls it off, especially in her scenes with Moore. These two have an undeniably strange chemistry, and some of their scenes, while sweet, do make the audience feel uncomfortable. Zachary Levi (Chuck from NBC's excellent new show Chuck) is simply hilarious and also at times pathetic as Mason's best friend and boss, who's torn between wanting to help his friend, getting him the help he clearly needs, and encouraging him to help himself. It seems like a difficult role, balancing ego, comedy and a strange best friend dynamic that in the end is just as destructive as Mason's deteriorating grasp on reality, but Levi handles it with talent and no shortage of wit or cynicism. The contrast between his well ordered apartment and gifted life, and the troubled, grimy world that Mason lives it, adds depth to their inexplicable friendship that in most other movies wouldn't be there.

The look of the movie itself has a disjointed and unsettling mood about it, almost like it was designed to keep you on edge. Even the paintings that Mason creates are disturbing. The story may move a tad slowly, but the major hits come right on time, the scares are dead on, and again the ending was well timed and expertly executed. This is kind of a slow burn movie, where it moves along at a slow pace, giving only little glimpses of the horror to come, before the final reel just kicks your ass. This, combined with the tone and mood of some of the performances, brought to mind the brilliant movie May. While some parts of it resort to slow motion music video shots (thankfully without any simpering emo music), most of the flick sounds and looks great. What can I say, these guys love horror/thriller movies, and it shows on the screen. This movie rocked not only because it was such a departure (both in content and tone) from Hatchet, and not just because it did everything right and never missed a thriller beat. It slayed on it's own merits. It's an original take on a tried and proven subject, filmed with an expert eye and delivered with talent in all departments.

What more can I say? Well, keep your eye on that quiet guy at work. You know, the one who eats alone and stares at the floor when you say hi. Maybe buy him a nice Christmas present this year. You just never know what kind of mayhem they'll unleash if they are off of their medication...
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.33:1.

Audio: English (Dolby 5.1 & 2.0 Surround) and English Closed Captioning.
The Extras
This excellent disc from Anchor Bay includes an Audio Commentary by Green, Moore, Levi, Tamblyn, as well as co-writer/producer Jeremy Danial Boreing and the DP Will Barratt. With this many people on a commentary, sometimes there's too much going on for it to be enjoyable, but here it's obvious these guys are hyped about the flick, they all have some pretty insightful things to say, and it's clear that this one was a labour of love that they had been cooking up for awhile. Well worth the listen. We also get the short making of featurette Spinning Spiral (7:38), which gives us some tidbits from Green, Moore and company, as well as some funny on set hijinks. There are also 3 Cinefile Promos, which are three minute looks at the making of an indie film, put together by Stars Entertainment. These include small interviews and more on set action from the cast and crew. Throughout, the connection between the four main guys involved in the production is highlighted. Green, Moore, Levi and Boreing have all wanted to work together for awhile, and it seems that this project is personal for all of them. The disc is capped off with the excellent Trailer for the movie.
Last Call
With almost everything in the world of mainstream horror going horribly wrong these days, it's awesome to see engaging, original and entertaining movies being made. It's a shame that people outside of the horror fan community will probably never hear about Spiral, because for a movie that deals with this much psychological horror, it is surprisingly accessible. And that itself is a testament to the talent involved in making this movie, on every level. Fine and twisty script that keeps you entertained and guessing, subject matter that is emotional and disturbing all at once, a look and feel that is both comforting and unsettling, and some extremely top notch performances from some great actors. What more could you want? Well, for starters, for these guys to make more movies together! Chemistry, passion, talent and the ability to deliver the goods in the end. This is what horror filmmaking should be.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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