FEARNET Movie Review - Spiral


Spiral is going to throw a few gorehounds for a loop because it comes from a pair of filmmakers who also created a great little slasher flick called Hatchet. So consider this a public service: Adam Green & Joel Moore's Spiral is NOT a horror movie. It's actually just a really engaging dramatic piece ... that takes a few unpleasant turns near the end. If all you know of Joel David Moore are his freaky comedic turns in Dodgeball and Grandma's Boy, then be prepared to have your perceptions altered just a bit. In Spiral Moore plays a skittish, jittery, asthmatic office drone who loves jazz, paints a mean canvas, and has really terrible luck with the ladies. Mason's only ally is a strangely devoted (yet entirely abrasive) office manager named Berkeley (the excellent Zachary Levi). Serving as a garish counterpoint to Mason's awful luck with women, Berkeley is a handsome and entirely oily womanizer -- and yet the guy seems to hold a special place in his heart for Mason. Weird.

New avenues appear when Mason's boring lunch routine is interrupted by the arrival of a doe-eyed sweetheart called Amber (as played quite lovably by Amber Tamblyn). The pair strike up an unlikely friendship and Mason slowly sheds a few insecurities -- but not all of 'em. Let's just say that Mason's still got a few creaking skeletons in his closet (and perhaps a few marbles loose in the brain), and just leave it at that. As Mason and Amber get closer, we start to wonder if maybe there's something about the gal that's not quite ... right. But Mason is so thrilled to get some attention from a pretty girl that he ignores some pretty big warning signs.

What works best in Spiral is probably the component that'll have all the horror fans up in arms: The numerous "chatty" sequences between Moore and Tamblyn, which are really quite excellent. And there are a lot of 'em. The co-directors are clever enough to toss the Berkeley character back into the mix with some frequency (because, hateful and manipulative though he may be, he's a colorfully compelling character) and every once in a while we're given a brief glimpse into Mason's fractured psyche -- but for the most part Spiral is content to focus on its two main characters and the subtle influences they exert on each another -- for better or for worse.

Boasting a great jazz-filled soundtrack, an effectively insular vision of rainy Portland, and a few sly surprises along the way, Spiral might not be a big-time multiplex sort of movie -- but it is a surprisingly engrossing two-person character study that (gradually) reveals something quite a bit darker beneath the surface. You might not be able to catch the flick outside of a film festival or (eventually) a video store, but I say it's well worth checking out either way. It might be a bit too "deliberately-paced" for those who like their movies to get right to the meat of the matter, but the flick clocks in at an efficient 86 minutes, and the performances are worthy of that investment all by themselves. (Plus the ending packs a nice, quiet kick.) At the very least the flick proves that Adam Green is more than a one-trick pony -- and also that Joel Moore is a whole lot more than just another goofy character actor.

It was probably pretty tough to catch Spiral during its quick 'n' limited theatrical run, but the good news is that the DVD comes stocked with a whole bunch of supplemental stuff. Once you're done with the main feature, you can sit back for an audio commentary with (deep breath) writer/director Joel David Moore, co-director Adam Green, co-writer Jeremy Boering, actors Zachary Levi and Amber Tamblyn, and cinematographer Will Barratt. Obviously there aren't many dry patches in a commentary this packed with people, and the chat-track does not disappoint. Also included is a standard-but-fun behind-the-scenes piece and a bunch of trailers.