A new week means a new theme for the horror movies and this time around we are doing Queer Horror week. I’ll be looking at horror films from all the various aspects of LGBTQ+ cinema that I can fit into a single week. Today’s selection has a lot less Junji Ito than I was expecting but plenty of commentary on scapegoats of American society.
In 1995, gay couple Malik and Aaron move to a small town with Aaron’s daughter Kayla in tow. Everything seems quiet and peaceful there at first but Malik begins to notice things happening that are going beyond even the normal homophobia that one might expect from a suburb in the mid 90’s. Things begin to spiral (haHA) out of control as Malik digs deeper into the history of the town and what it is that might actually be going on. Can he convince Aaron that something is wrong before it is too late? No, of course not. This is a horror movie.
This is an especially interesting film since we get these two different experiences of what it means to be gay in America between Malik and Aaron. Aaron was, until recently, married, had a kid, and is also white middle class. He passed as straight when he was younger and never had to truly grapple with the hatred and homophobia around him. Malik, on the other hand, had his childhood boyfriend beaten to death in front of him and grew up as a queer man of color in the 80’s. It seems only appropriate that it would be Malik that sees the signs of things not being right while Aaron assures him that the neighbors are lovely people if you give them a chance.
Spoilers for the end of the film: When we finally see that it actually has nothing to do with Aaron and Malik but is all about the sacrifice of the daughter; it really clarifies the theme here. Mainly that there will always be someone where it is ok to treat terribly and that nobody will question what happened to them simply because of who they are. When it cuts to 2005, we see that the new family with a young daughter moving is Middle Eastern. The immortal residents represent the way that this hatred and discrimination lives on and merely changes targets as one becomes more accepted. We end with a warning left by Malik to represent each generation trying to help the next learn from the hatred of the past.
With a very tense amount of action packed into a small run time, Spiral delivers on so many fronts. You get the fear of being othered mixed so well with the paranoia that comes from a lifetime of having to look over your shoulder just because of who you are. In all, a very strong start to the week.
Score: 5 out of 5