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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.69%
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Total Crap46.15%

2 reviews, 1 rating

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Spiral (2008)
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by Jay Seaver

"Has some good pieces, at least."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: "Spiral" is about as thin as a feature film can be, to the point where I think that maybe there's not a feature's worth of material to it. I wonder if it wouldn't drift into obscurity, even by festival-circuit standards, if programmers didn't find it to be an interesting counterpoint to "Hatchet", a slasher flick with which it shares a star and director that has been doing the midnight-movie rounds at the same time.

While I'm told Hatchet is a funny, high-energy piece, Spiral is fairly somber. Mason (Joel Moore) works in an insurance company call center, his only friend his boss and high-school classmate Berkeley (Zachary Levi). Mason likes jazz, and painting, and is carrying some bad memories around. His last relationship has just ended, but a new girl has taken interest in him: Amber (Amber Tamblyn) works in the same call center, likes the spot that Mason had staked out for eating lunch by himself, and certainly doesn't mind that Mason lets her chatter on without complaint. She seems oblivious to how creepy everyone else finds Mason. It doesn't escape the audience's notice, though, that the sketches and paintings Mason starts making of her after they start dating are eerily reminiscent of the ones he removed from his apartment earlier.

The film is a nice calling card for Joel Moore, who stars, co-wrote the script with Jeremy Boreing, served as an executive producer, and directs along with Adam Green (since Moore is in nearly ever scene, Green served as the on-set director with Moore handling the rest of the work). Mason is a good character for him; Moore's hangdog face and deep voice hint that there's something tragic hanging over him that makes the audience want to understand why he's so cut off. Most of the people at his workplace are put off by him, but one can see where people would occasionally be drawn in, too. As the movie goes on, there's an occasionally scary edge of anger in his voice, and he's got a line at the end ("how can you tell the difference?") that drives home what kind of anguish his particular troubles must be.

This is Moore's show, with Amber Tamblyn and Zachary Levi giving the very definition of supporting performances. Tamblyn is cute, but makes Amber kind of a pest about it; there's a little insecurity to her. She's not stupid or timid, but can do with a little assurance or at least attention. Levi's Berkeley is the scene-stealer, with every other line of dialog a jerk comment. It's an open question of whether his giving Mason a hand is him being a decent guy underneath or, as one of his dates puts it, him trying to convince himself that he is. Both play off Moore well, and are entertaining enough to watch.

As good as the performances are, especially Moore, there's just not enough for them to do. The story is tightly focused on these characters, and about halfway through, I found myself thinking, okay, I've got it, and wishing they'd get on with whatever they were going to be getting on with. There were, I figured, a couple of ways this could go, and the film opts to go with a combination of the two. It's not unsatisfying, but I think this could have been a thirty-minute short or entry in an anthology film without losing very much.

(Interestingly, Green mentioned during the Q&A that there were about forty-five minutes of deleted scenes for an eventual DVD. Maybe making this film half-again as long as it is would have introduced some interesting subplots, but that much more of what there is would have been deadly.)

Movies like "Spiral" almost aren't for public consumption; they're a way for cast and crew to hone their craft and demonstrate to producers and festival attendees what they're capable of. It accomplishes that, especially for certain elements; the elements just don't totally come together into something that works as a full movie.

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originally posted: 07/20/07 13:35:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.

User Comments

3/04/08 Eidm Troam An Excellent film. The Direction is outstanding as the acting is elegant. A fantastic film 5 stars
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  DVD: 19-Feb-2008



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