When young photographer Theo ( Joseph Herrera) is drugged and sexually assaulted at an “anti-quarantine” party, he finds sanctuary in the seedy nightlife scene of Dallas, engaging in drug use, sex, and danger.
Dallas actor and filmmaker, Joseph Herrera, recently wrapped production on Under Control Productions’ first project: Spiral Deep. The film is the first release under the filmmaker’s label and it tackles the recent, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Starring alongside Herrera is Adam Kronenberger, Angel Rose Keeley, Adrian Speller, and Jayson Woods. The film is a dark dive into the seedy Dallas nightlife scene and the fetishes that breed therein.
This film knocked me for a six. Its unsettling and violent sexual nature very much took me right out of my comfort zone and left me rather perturbed. I do believe that to be a good thing though–film is meant to broaden our horizons by proving a looking glass into worlds we would usually never see. It is a way for us to enter the minds and lives of others, to experience a human psyche other than our own. Spiral Deep does just that, although this journey is probably a little darker than what most would find enjoyable in the traditional sense. Filled with colourful characters and dance parties, the tone of the film is unexpectedly sombre, sometimes sad, and very much meant to make you think.
The central themes are depression and rape–two powerful, consuming demons that plague all levels of society. Joining the cast are loss–a close friend of depression–and Covid-19, a relative newcomer to the “dark themes” club but one that has been making quite a name for itself as of late. These themes all coalesce within Theo, a down on his luck photographer who is in the middle of a Mr Selfdestruct moment. Reeling from the loss of a loved one, making no money due to Covid-19, and with no solutions in sight, he decides to go look for fulfilment amongst some covidiots. Herrera (As Theo) gives a powerhouse performance as the troubled bacchanal and is a pleasure to watch.
We do get a single moment of dark humour within the film if one pays attention to the masks of the partygoers, all of whom are wearing their masks in some ridiculous manner. I made some noise along the lines of a chortle or a snort, enjoying the jab but at the same time realising that we are never going to defeat this virus when the world is full of people like this. The film quickly turns dark after that scene though and all humour rappidly dissipates.
Our protagonist is raped. The acting is superb and the scene confusing–is he enjoying this? I had to watch the film twice to confirm my irrational suspicions. While I could relate to the club and drug scenes, I’m very ignorant when it comes to the queer culture that often accompanies the aforementioned. Perhaps I’m a little too vanilla. Theo clearly gets off on the abuse, which definitely dominates much of the short. One then certainly wonders how that plays into the depression and the loss. Does he feel that he deserves this, as the depressed often do? Does he feel that his only path is to ride this spiral to its deadly end? There is very little dialogue, internal or otherwise, apart from a few important interactions, so we are never really privy to what Theo is thinking. Perhaps he isn’t, perhaps he is just reacting.
The film is a tough watch with heavy LGBTQ+ themes and suggested sodomy. If you are a conservative Christian type, probably stay away as your jimmies will be rustled. If you are the adventurous filmgoer, someone struggling with self-medication and depression, LGBTQ+ yourself or someone looking for a window into the life of a man spiralling deep, definitely give this a chance. The acting is fantastic, the production value great, and the setting very much now, important and relevant. The film tackles bold topics and does so fearlessly. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid.
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