From a young age, the horror genre has always stood out to me. It was the ultimate escape from reality and the pure adrenaline from being scared shitless was my go to for a good time. The more I got into film, I realized that a large part of why I enjoyed certain films came from whether or not I liked or could relate to the characters. I mean, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) is quite literally why it’s one of my favorite movies. But the older I got and the more I began to understand who I was, I started to notice that I wasn’t necessarily seeing someone like me in horror. There was never the gay friend in a slasher movie, the queer kid who’s part of a family living in a haunted house, or even a gay couple in a home invasion, etc. Thankfully that’s finally changing.
Over the last few years specifically we’ve started to see an increase of LGBTQ+ representation in the horror genre that weren’t completely based on stereotypes. The newest example of this is Kurtis David Harder’s (Cody Fitz, In Control) Spiral. The film follows a gay couple who move to a small town with their 16 year old daughter; only to become the newest victims of a ritual within the strange community. Many themes are present through-out the story that include racial profiling, how ones trauma from a hate crime can terrorize their present, instilled paranoia, homophobia of course, and many more. Although at times a little too on the nose, it’s never over the top. The scenarios in which we’re introduced to the prejudice behaviour of some is usually presented with ignorant comments that are made everyday. But a major point of the film that stuck with me is when one of the men explains that people love to believe that we don’t live in a racist, homophobic, transphobic society anymore; but that’s not the case. People just aren’t as vocal about their bigotry anymore. That’s not to dismiss how far we’ve come, but it’s also here to show that there is still a long way to go and much more work to be done.
When it comes to Spiral, there’s so much to love. The acting from Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (UnREAL, Canada’s Drag Race) is exceptional and not an easy role to play. Bowyer-Chapman takes on Malik, a gay black man living in a very white community who begins to wonder if he’s descending into madness. He’s such a fleshed out character and one that you really want to believe isn’t going mad. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say Spiral is scary, it does have its moments. There were a few jump scares that really got me and the overall atmosphere and cinematography made you feel so uneasy. My biggest complaint in the end was that not all questions were answered, but that didn’t take away from its surprising and captivating final moments.
The most exciting thing about this film is how mainstream it feels. When I watch queer horror it usually ends up feeling too low budget, poorly acted and not so memorable; but because of the lack of options I tend to re-watch them anyway. This time around I got a well done mystery that had so much heart and effort put into it, giving me hope that this won’t be the last of above average queer horror. I wish this was around when I was a teenager, but at least young gay horror fans today will get to see positive representation in a genre that has lacked in that department.
This filmmaking shouldn’t stop at cis gay and lesbian stories either. Queer people of colour and transgender representation in horror has been nearly non-existent as a whole when there’s so many stories to be told from so many different perspectives. There’s an audience out there and it’s time for that to be realized. Horror is universal and we all know that seeing characters that are like you on screen makes a film that much better and enjoyable.
With all that said, this film can easily be enjoyed by any horror fan no matter what your background is. It’s a diverse story with good thrills and a great cast. If you have the chance to see this then take it. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you like twisted little mysteries then this should be right up your alley.