Spiral (2007)

Spiral review (click to see it bigger!)Reviewed by Johnny Butane

Starring Joel Moore, Amber Tamblyn, Zach Levi

Directed by Adam Green and Joel Moore

Anyone who’s been lucky enough to see Hatchet (review here), Adam Green’s out-of-the-box screaming debut, will more than likely conclude that he’s a huge fan of gore and mayhem and we can expect to see a lot more of it from him in the future. This is true to a point, but as Spiral proves without a doubt, there’s a lot more to Adam Green than undead, swamp-dwelling psychopaths.

The film starts off with our story’s lead, Mason (Joel Moore, also 180 degrees from his turn in Hatchet and pretty much anything else you’ve seen him in), making a frantic late-night phone call to his only friend in the world, Berkeley (Levi, an incredible discovery that I can see doing great things down the road). He’s huddled in a corner, saying he’s done something bad and Berkeley needs to call the police, but Berkeley takes it all in stride, telling him he needs to take a hit off his inhaler and go to bed.

Right off the bat you get the feeling this isn’t the first panicked, middle of the night phone call for Berkeley since he deals with it so nonchalantly, but there are moments to suggest that, indeed, Mason did do something bad. And because of this act he has a serious aversion to his bathroom now, too.

Spiral review (click to see it bigger!)As the story moves forward, Mason meets a new girl, Amber (Tamblyn, finally playing a real person instead of a PG-13 horror heroine), and despite the fact that he shows no interest at first, he’s shy to a fault and still very upset over whatever it was he did that prompted the phone call, she pursues him. Eventually the two strike up a friendship. Mason is a huge jazz fan as well as a painter, two traits that Amber can’t help but find charming about him despite his shy demeanor. He agrees to paint her portrait, and with that the troubles almost immediately begin again.

I don’t want to go much further as there is a lot to Spiral that needs to be seen to be enjoyed. Instead I will point out, again, how different this movie is to Hatchet and how amazingly well done it is, taking the directorial chops Green flexed in his debut to an amazing new level. The suspense is pure Hitchcock in the best sense of the word, the camera moves are jarring at times and soothing at others, going from intense close-ups to huge, panoramic scenes that look like they had to be shot on a soundstage (according to Green’s Q&A after the film played, they were not); indeed the camera and its position, what it chooses to show you, the viewer, is a large reason why Spiral is so unsettlingly beautiful.

Spiral review (click to see it bigger!)The score should be mentioned here because it’s almost another character all to itself. Green said they had a jazz band literally just play along with the movie, recording everything they did, and that’s how the score came to be. You can feel the urgency of it, the rawness that is evoked from incredibly talented musicians reacting in almost real time to the imagery they see on screen. Some of it is mellow and soothing, some of it is disorienting and raucous, but it all fits perfectly within the context of the movie.

The ending is the only thing I can see people having issues with because, yes, there is a twist, but it’s not likely one you’ll see coming. Unfortunately because of the prominence of twist ending movies, I was looking for the solution throughout the whole thing, but when it actually hit, I didn’t see it coming. But then I suck at such things so you can’t really judge its effectiveness by my opinion. Suffice it to say it’s a satisfying conclusion, save the switch from jazz to a horribly lame pop song that Green told us may or may not make the final cut.

Spiral is not a movie for everyone. It’s not fast-paced, it’s nearly bereft of any bloodshed, and the characters are slow-burning examinations into varying forms of loneliness; but man, is it ever a skillful, well crafted piece of head fuckery that will hopefully allow audiences to see Green as someone with talent for more than just mindless bloodshed.

4 out of 5

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Johnny Butane