by Jef Burnham
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Spiral is a pretty standard, yet decent twist and turner-style psychological thriller—the type of film my friend Andrew says they make 500 of a year and he’s not watching them. I too tend to avoid films whose promotions include tags such as, “The most shocking ending of the year!” But if you go for the M. Night Shyamalan brand of surprise ending films, this is one of the better ones.
The film stars Joel David Moore (Hatchet, Dodgeball), who also co-wrote and co-directed the feature, as Mason, an introverted telemarketer/painter suffering from apparent mental problems as a result of his father murdering his mother. Mason’s fickle sanity is maintained only through his artwork and with the aid of his best friend and boss, Berkeley (played by Zachary Levi of NBC’s Chuck). Then, Mason meets the annoyingly cute Amber (Amber Tamblyn), whose advances he receives with much reluctance.
The performances are solid, especially from Zachary Levi who I was excited to see here, as I had only seen him in Chuck until now; and the cool jazz score by Todd Caldwell and Michael “Fish” Herring gives the film a distinctly intelligent atmosphere and a more genuine eeriness than is usually evoked by a thriller score. However, the twists in the final act of the film are predictable and highly contrived, invalidating the aforementioned intelligence. Such denouements are extremely condescending to the audience. Wholly unlike the incidental twist endings of Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat or Polanski’s masterpiece Chinatown, Spiral plays into the growing fad of twist endings in which you present the audience with a twist and follow that up with a second twist which rescinds the first twist, essentially creating no twist whatsoever. 1408 is the most notable recent film to use this time-wasting formula. It’s just poor writing. These films may as well open with, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic in Chicago.
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