Tag Archives: Colin Minihan

Bold Patterns


by Hope Madden

How many films, horror or otherwise, open as a moving van leaves a fresh faced family unpacking in their new dream home? Kurtis David Harder and his new Shudder thriller Spiral welcome you to the neighborhood.

What feels like your typical suburban paranoia film, this time given a fresh coat of paint with the introduction of a same-sex couple at its center, turns out to be something else entirely.

Even as Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Aaron (Ari Cohen) try to convince Aaron’s teenaged daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) that she really won’t miss the big city, Malik is seeing some things around the cul-de-sac that worry him.

But Aaron isn’t ready to believe the neighbors are homophobes (or racists, for that matter, even if Tiffany across the street assumed Malik was the gardener).

Spiral quickly falls into a very familiar pattern. Malik, who works at home as a writer, begins to let his research get the better of him. Writer’s block has him paranoid—or maybe there’s a trauma in his past that’s to blame? Is he really seeing something strange in his neighbors’ windows? Is Aaron right, did he go overboard with that new home security system?

It sounds familiar—so much so that the film sometimes just figures your brain will fill in blanks left open.  And while Spiral’s internal logic is never air tight, screenwriters Colin Minihan (It Stains the Sands Red, What Keeps You Alive) and John Poliquin are more interested in bigger patterns. Their social allegory doesn’t achieve the breathless thrills of Get Out, but Spiral swims similar waters.

The filmmakers see patterns in political hatred and the continuing reaffirmation of the status quo, and those patterns are horrifying. While horror has always been an opportunity for the collective unconscious to deal with social anxiety in a safely distant way, Spiral is less interested in creating that comforting fictional buffer. It’s as if the filmmakers want you to see the holes in their plot so you’re more able to see the nonfiction it’s based on.

You’re Killing Me, Smalls

It Stains the Sands Red

by Hope Madden

Given the recent, tragic passing of filmmaking icon George A. Romero, you may find yourself nostalgic for the walking dead. Not just any hungry, re-animated cadaver, but the kind that serve as a parable or vehicle for self-awareness. The slow moving kind. The kind you don’t know whether to fear, pity or admire.

It Stains the Sands Red is here for you.

Director/co-writer Colin Minihan, with co-writer Stuart Ortiz (formerly known collectively as The Vicious Brothers), tests your patience, but the effort mostly pays off.

We open with some impressive aerial shots of the smoking, neon ruin of the Las Vegas strip. Cut to another gorgeous aerial of a sports car zipping up a desert highway. In it, a couple of coked-up strip club lowlifes, Molly (Brittany Allen) and Nick (Merwin Mondesir), are escaping to an airfield where they’ll meet with other lowlifes and head to an island off Mexico.

Naturally, this isn’t going to work out. But what Minihan has in store will surprise you.

He’s made a couple of fine choices with his film. The point of view character is not only an unlikely protagonist – an unpleasant thug with a drug habit – but she’s also female.

Soon the car goes off the road and one meathead catches her scent, and suddenly Molly’s stripper shoes are not her biggest problem as she faces a 30-mile trek across the desert to the airfield.

Molly names her zombie pursuer Smalls, but she may as well call him Wilson.

What develops is an often fascinating, slow moving but relentless chase as well as a character study. With a protagonist on a perilous journey toward redemption, It Stains the Sands Red takes a structure generally reserved for the man who needs to rediscover his inner manhood and tells a very female story.

Very female. Menstruation and everything.

Credit to the formerly Vicious for investing in a female’s perspective, and for doing it some level of justice.

Allen makes a great anti-heroine. Convincingly hard-knock and difficult to like, she never becomes the would-be lunch meat you root against.

As is too often the case in film – horror, thriller or otherwise – the only way a female can tap that survival instinct is by way of the maternal one. This picture becomes too predictable and too sentimental once it embraces this cliché, but that’s not reason enough to condemn it.