Tag Archives: Kurtis David Harder

Bold Patterns

Spiral

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.

Gone Catfishin’

Summerland

by Rachel Willis

It’s hard to sympathize with a catfish – someone who pretends to be someone else online to develop a misleading relationship.

Yet, in the film, Summerland, directed by Lankyboy (the nickname for directing duo Kurtis David Harder and Noah Kentis), we’re asked to do just that.

Bray (Chris Ball), who is pretending to be Victoria online, has made a connection with Shawn (Dylan Playfair) via a Christian dating site. Bray/Victoria has plans to meet Shawn at the music festival, Summerland.

Along for the road trip to Summerland is Oliver, Bray’s best friend, and Oliver’s girlfriend, Stacey. The problem? Bray has been using Stacey’s pictures to construct Victoria online. Once the trio gets to Summerland, will Bray be able to find Shawn before he finds Stacey?

Miraculously, as the film progresses, we do begin to sympathize with Bray. As a gay teenager, he is not accepted by his parents and struggles with his identity. He wants to meet someone, to have a relationship, and be himself. Despite the fact he has lied about his identity, he’s managed to be as open with Shawn as he has with anyone.

However, the film doesn’t let Bray off the hook entirely. We’re repeatedly reminded that he’s constructed a relationship around a lie. We must ask ourselves if some lies are forgivable when the liar struggles with what it means to be himself.

Most of the film is centered around the road trip to Summerland. Bray is anxious to get there so he can finally meet Shawn in person. Oliver wants to enjoy the journey. Stacey is rebelling against a stepdad she doesn’t like.

Lankyboy wants their movie to be quirky, but it’s a conventional road trip/relationship movie with some weird extras thrown in. Those weird moments are forced, don’t contribute much, and end up making a short movie feel intolerably long.

There are also far too many montages for such a short film.

The actors aren’t terrible in their roles. They’re not the worst trio to spend time with on a road trip movie, and the film does have one or two funny moments. But too much of the movie is focused on what it wants to be rather than effectively embracing what it is.

Unfortunately, what is ends up being is an unmemorable experience.