"Spike" opens with a dream sequence, and though that dream is short and stylistically distinct from the rest of the movie -- it's exactly the skin-crawling kind of dream you have when you doze off on a late-night car ride -- those few seconds set the stage for a surreal, deeply unsettling 90 minutes. If you're expecting a horror movie, or a teens-in-the-woods monster movie, you're going to be sad. Instead "Spike" is a gorgeous and haunting meditation on love and death, childhood and fantasy, like "Picnic at Hanging Rock" in a dark palette of red, silver and black. It, well, gets under your skin.
The plot makes about as much sense as Shakespeare's setup for "As You Like It": it's just an excuse to get the characters into the forest. And once the two unnamed couples (one hetero, one lesbian) are there, weird things begin to happen. Something scary pops out of the woods and takes out one of the characters, and for a minute it seems maybe this will be a traditional horror movie. But director/screenwriter Robert Beaucage immediately lets you know you're in different territory: the scary monster leaves behind a handwritten poem. This isn't Freddy, this isn't Jason -- as it turns out, it's just an incredibly lonely guy with a crush on the straight girl. And he's covered in spikes.
The cast does a nice job of keeping you grounded in the strange terrain: this may be a trippy fairy tale, but these are real people. At first I didn't expect to like Sarah Livingston Evans' lead character, who stands around looking vague and then starts fainting; but as the story unspools you gradually see the strength, compassion and even humor behind her delicate features. And I loved Nancy Corbo as the resourceful person you'd always want with you when you're lost in the woods.
Initially I docked this movie a star because none of the characters have names; if you're going to separate your characters and have them wandering around the woods, they need to be able to call "Hey, Bobbi Jo!" or whatever. But after thinking about it I decided that was just ornery; I sort of like that they're all nameless, because you end up identifying with each of them in turn. This movie takes you deep into the primordial forest of the psyche, all the way back to your childhood: your first real friend, your first nightmares. It asks questions everyone can relate to: How do you let someone go? What will you do to protect the one you love? How can you love more than one person? Do you ever really forget someone? And it delivers one final heartbreaking answer: You can never help from hurting the person you love.
(NB to IMDb: This review SO does not have spelling mistakes.)
19 of 36 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?