A Perfect Spiral

Well, another fantastic movie came my way this weekend.

Mason’s got a mental problem. Ever since childhood, Mason’s been a little twitchy. He has an inhaler, is socially awkward and estranged, and doesn’t always function well. He’s possibly even a little delusional. Or a lot delusional. On the upside, however, he’s a great artist.

But Mason’s calling his one and only friend, someone he’s known since he was a normal kid, in the middle of the night and asking for help. And it turns out Mason’s got a dark and very scary side. He’s a study in contrasts.

So when he meets Amber, a pretty, outgoing and gregarious girl who takes an almost instant shine to Mason, things seem to be looking up. Or do they? And when Amber agrees to sit for Mason as his newest model, the real Mason starts to come out for the first time. For better or worse.

clip_image002The movie is called Spiral, and I found it on Netflix on Friday. Like most independent movies, it leaves the familiar Hollywood tropes for psychological thrillers far behind. It also did a nice job of leading the viewer down one path, seeming to make everything clear and obvious, and actually being quite interesting rather than boring. I loved every moment of it.

The mood and music of the movie are very strange. There are famous jazz songs which roll almost constantly in the background and lend to the weird atmosphere the movie establishes. The movie never drags, even when it’s doing fairly uninteresting things and establishing fairly mundane facts. Even scenes when the characters are just sitting, in a “talking heads” scene, it’s rife with tension and conflict and is generally perfect in its contribution to the story. Neither is the movie terribly long, only weighing in at about 90 minutes, give or take.

The flashbacks are executed well, as either memories triggered by day-to-day things for Mason, and even more brilliantly conveyed as nightmares he has, jolting him to consciousness violently. There’s one moment of start, but the movie’s generally built on tension, not scares. It’s very tightly drawn, in my opinion, and if you can suspend disbelief (I have a very hard time with this), the acting will sweep you away.

If there’s a drawback to the movie, I feel it’s the supporting character of the best friend. While ably portrayed by Zachary Levi, the character is rather wooden, sort of a “Mary Sue” if you will. And he’s shown doing things which would have had him either in civil court or in the unemployment line – or both – in moments, not hours. The farcical portrait of corporate environments and people stems, in my humble (ha!) opinion, from movie-makers and writers never actually having worked a day in their lives. They haven’t a clue. So how can they do it right? They can’t. And thus, they don’t.

Still, with that set aside, the main character’s handling by Joel David Moore is outstanding. I’ve only seen him in bit parts prior to this, but I’m a little surprised based on how well he managed this role. I almost felt familiar with Mason, because of Moore’s acting; he was someone I’d met, or knew in high school, or was introduced to by a friend. My only thought about this was, Mason seemed more like on online gamer or computer nerd than an artist, and I found that incongruity strange. But not so much I couldn’t enjoy both the character and the movie.

Spiral is on Netflix now, and I recommend it highly. I rated it 5 out of 5 stars.



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