>> Fantastic Fest 3: Spiral (John’s Review, 7.5/10)

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Spiral PosterAdam Green, current darling of the horror scene for his gruesome foray into slasher movies, Hatchet, has collaborated with actor Joel David Moore (most recognizable as the nerdy character in Dodgeball) to create a psychological thriller titled Spiral. It’s a sure-footed outing, somewhat reminiscent of Lucky McKee’s May, that traces a dark path in the romance between a jazz-obsessed painter (Moore himself) and his most recent subject (a radiant Amber Tamblyn).

Moore is Mason, an aggressively insular insurance telemarketer, working alongside his childhood friend/office manager Berkeley (Zachary Levi). Berkeley, a no-good-dog of a ladies man, is constantly pushing Mason to connect with a girl in the office, despite Mason’s social reluctance. Mason is unable to keep his walls up for Amber (Tamblyn), a viviacious, chatty officemate attracted to Mason’s quiet demeanor and his artistic ability. She almost literally shoves herself into Mason’s life, forcing him out of his shell, and easily falling into place as Mason’s latest painting model. What the audience knows that Amber doesn’t know is that something seriously wrong happened with Mason’s last model–a greasy spoon waitress, last seen being lugged down Mason’s apartment stairs in the rain in large Hefty bags.

It’s clear that something is broken inside Mason, and the mystery of the film is at the center of the character’s slow unraveling. Moore and Green work hard to try and make Mason sypathetic, or they’d lose you, and you’d think this would be just another story about a psycho killer. Sometimes it’s tough to swallow why someone like Amber would give Mason more than a second chance to impress her. He’s shy to the point of gruffness, and wears an unflattering expression of hangdog dismay in almost every scene. Although their romance is sweet, it’s doomed from the start, and the tension lies in waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, we’ll find out why Mason never lets anyone see his sketchbooks, and what happened to his previous artistic muses, and we know the story of Mason and Amber will come to an end. It’s a deliberately paced downward spiral, a sticky quicksand of artistic torment and Mason’s failure to connect with others.

Spiral is an effective shocker that should please viewers whose tastes run a little bit artsy and dark. There’s an unfortunate song choice at the film’s climax that wreaks havoc with the overall tone of the film, but it’s a forgivable mistake in an otherwise solid effort from co-writers/co-directors Green and Moore.

7.5 on a 1 to 10 scale

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1 Comment

  1. This was one of my favorites of the competition films.


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