"I think I did something. Something bad…" says Mason (Joel Moore), the lead character in Spiral. However, as a co-director (along with Hatchet's Adam Green), Moore cannot say that.
Spiral is a very good noir-like psychological horror thriller that's clad in gray, rainy Portland and concentrates on a lonely, solitary artist named Mason. Nobody really takes much notice of Mason, until Amber (Amber Tamblyn) comes to town.
Mason's passion is his artwork, but his rent is paid by his dreaded day job in phone sales (is that still a profession? Maybe he should have been a spam-sender instead) and his only friend is his morally reprehensive boss, Berkeley (Zachary Levi). Things don't change much as each wet day passes, but when Amber starts working alongside him and takes an interest in Mason, he comes to life and lets his inner-self show. Unfortunately for Amber and everyone in his orbit, it was best when Mason was miserably introverted. Now that he's happy, he's all too happy to contemplate killing.
Moore does double-duty ably, and Tamblyn, who's always the brightest spot in any movie she's in, does not disappoint as the sunny yet quirky love interest of the oddly fascinating and deeply flawed Mason. As he draws her portrait, so do the lines of their possibly deadly dynamic come into focus. Their relationship is alluring and repellant all at the same time, which is not as easy tightrope to walk for any actor — yet both leads handle the narrow steps with equal aplomb.
Will Barratt's spellbinding cinematography really helps the collection of dreary, full-of-dread moments shine with wicked suspense. Barratt does a masterful job of making those old standby flashback sequences and hallucinations seem fresh and vivid. The jazzy score coaxes a feeling of film noir, even if the story itself is not inherently of the genre. Spiral is an interesting experiment in the evocation of things that do not actually exist, and it succeeds with sizzle.
When I use the words suspense, thrill, and sizzle, that does not imply the movie is fast-paced. Make no mistake: it's largely psychological and character-driven. It's patient. There isn't a lot of gore, but the horror is all there, dark and unsettling as the clouds that gather for Pacific Northwest's famed storms.
Let yourself get drawn into the Spiral — out in limited release now, and soon to be on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson