Director – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Cast – Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Vanessa Bednar, Shane Brady, Francesco Carnelutti, Vinny Curran, Augie Duke, Jeremy Gardner
Release Year –
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Spring is the newest film from the duo behind notable indie film Resolution and the “Bonestorm” segment of VHS: Viral – Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. While these previous efforts have their fans and non-fans, there is no going wrong with Spring. It would be wrong to judge this effort based on their previous works, because this is so much better than anything they have done. Equal parts romance / horror, we are given an original tale that succeeds at both elements. It’s not often a horror film can both warm your heart and rattle you with tension, but Spring is that type of film.
After the death of his mother sends him into a downhill spiral, Evan embarks on a trip to Europe to get away from it all. While in Italy he meets the woman of his dreams, but his devotion will be put to the test when he learns of the primeval secret she is harboring.
The story begins with Evan spending time with his mother during her final moments. This kicks off a small series of events that give him reason to leave the country, and he does just that. He travels solo, but quickly befriends a group of English dude-bros and they slay the coast together. Soon enough he meets Louise, and their first encounter does not go the way you would think. The story plays off much like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, so if you have seen the film then you know exactly what to expect. The filmmakers manage to give this a tranquil, smooth flow throughout the 109 minute runtime. The first horror hits at 36 minutes in, and it only intensifies from then on out. Evan is in the dark over what Louise is hiding, and so are we. As the story progresses we learn more and more about her heinous secret, and so does Evan. He tries to take the high road and not be the type of man to bail on something he does not need to be a part of, and that is where the relationship conflict comes into play. The two have something real. They have a real chance at happiness, and while they both want it…it’s not going to come easy.
The love element is great, but it was the horror that impressed me. The source of Louise’s secret is one of the more creative elements of horror I have seen in recent time. She isn’t something typical like a vampire, werewolf, or zombie. Instead, she is something I can only describe as Lovecraftian. Yeah, when you think Lovecraft you already know what’s up. The horror is an equal mix of live-action and CGI, with the CGI never detrimental and only used for some scenes that would have been hard to achieve via practical effects. I loved the look of the “antagonist” as well. It was fresh, scary, and was physically menacing. It was so menacing that it left me in shock. Hardly something you’d expect from a film with a romance element.
Benson and Moorehead struck gold with this flick in that it shows their writing / directing talent. The story is engaging and moves at a perfect pace that never left me unengaged in its near two hours in length. Their horror is not without kills, although there isn’t too much that occurs onscreen. This will be a positive to some and a negative to those wanting to see more of the creature-feature element. Personally, I feel that the amount of horror shown was perfect for the “feel” of the film. Had it been over-the-top it would have most likely taken away from what the filmmakers intended to do. Lead actor Lou Taylor Pucci gave his best performance since the start of his career, 10 years ago when he starred in The Thumbsucker. Since then he has appeared in horror films Evil Dead, Carriers, and Horsemen. He did a solid job of executing the emotional extremes his character was put though. Joy, sadness, compassion – he conquered and gave one of the best acting jobs I have seen in 2015 so far. Nadia Hilker makes her feature film debut as Louise, and she also excelled. Her character was less emotional than Evan’s but not without having her own conflict to deal with it. In fact, her conflict had much greater risk and consequences involved. Also, keep an eye out for The Battery director Jeremy Gardner in a small role as Tommy. While romance was in the air, the atmosphere was perfect for this experience. A small seaside town serves as the meeting point for the two to court, love life, make love, and try to keep from transforming into a Lovecraftian sea creature. This is a big upgrade from the previous works from the filmmaking duo, and I applaud them for this accomplishment.
Overall, Spring is one of the best horror/romance films I have seen. The story is engaging, expertly written, and executed equally well. The horror is there, so don’t be turned off by the romance element just yet. If you want something different, unique, and horrifying, then give this a try. I highly recommend it.