Two of horror’s most talented modern story tellers, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, return with Spring, a film that effectively blends extreme genre tropes into an expertly crafted understated indie romance. Spring centers on an American twenty-something, Evan (played by Lou Taylor Pucci who we last saw in Fede Alvarez’s entertaining Evil Dead remake), who seeks to seduce a voluptuous and elusive foreigner, Louise (German actress Nadia Hilker), in a small coastal Italian village. Previously the duo brought us the fantastic meta-Horror flick Resolution, a film that presents itself as a tale of a man who tries to kick his friends Meth addiction in an isolated remote cabin but develops into something much deeper, and the entertaining Bonestorm segment in last year’s V/H/S: Viral, a GoPro shot skate video gone horribly wrong. Given the quality of their last two ventures, expectations were high going into Spring, and thankfully the film delivers on virtually all fronts.
Never ones to conform to traditional narrative tropes, Spring opens on the death of Evan’s cancer-afflicted mother. Distraught, Evan goes to drink the pain away at the local bar (the place of his employment) and, through no fault of his own, gets entangled in a bar fight with some junkies, warranting unwanted police attention and a potent threat of retaliation from his attackers. With no reason to stay in the country Evan flees to Europe, travelling through remote country towns with a couple of acquaintances he meets in a Hostel until he encounters Louise, a local who is disinterested in romance or relationship. Immediately entranced by her allure, Evan situates himself in Italy, working for board on a small farm, intent on pursuing Louise. If this isn’t sounding like a Horror movie that’s because it kind of isn’t – at least not in the traditional sense; Moorhead and Benson work elements of Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Comedy into this Frankenstein-esque beast of a genre film that switches up its style and tone with every beat. There’s something sinister and unnerving about the whole experience that I can’t quite put my finger on but everything boils down to a wholly satisfying conclusion. Mix in some beautiful cinematography from Moorhead and a fantastic soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself a pretty unique and wonderful fully-rounded cinematic experience.
That’s not to say that the film is without issues – as is the case with most films that attempt to approach film-making from a perspective that is completely separated from the prevailing rules that have generally defined conventional film-making, it doesn’t always work. Some sequences fall flat or simply, feel out of place. Moorhead and Benson like to inject a little bit of bleak, harsh reality into everything they do, some edge that hits too close to reality for comfort, and this is definitely present in this otherwise fantastical story. While this isn’t necessarily a criticism of the film (in fact, I kind of dug it), this will be unnerving for some and put them off the project altogether. When it comes down to brass tax, the horrific crux of the film doesn’t work as well as it could – so much is put into the non-genre aspects of this project that when it gets down to its B-movie elements it doesn’t necessarily bite like it should.
However, none of this really matters. What this film may lack in scares and cohesiveness it makes up in its emotional resonance. Spring just ‘feels’ right – it’s a remarkably well constructed romance that hits the mark way more proficiently than most conventional relationship movies. In my mind, Spring isn’t a set of well crafted, impressive sequences that are strung together to form a cohesive whole, it is a set of complex emotions, a rejection of the biochemical description of love that Moorhead and Benson set up in its conceit, and this is as high a compliment as I can pay to any film. For that alone Spring is worth seeking out. It’s a unique construction that flaunts the talent of its writer/directors, a pair well worth keeping an eye on, even if the film is uneven at times. Hopefully this will start to break Moorhead and Benson into the mainstream consciousness; in their limited career they’ve put out three solid projects and have crafted their own unique voice, they are deserving of much more praise than they’ve received, and if the slight unevenness of Spring is anything to go by, their best work is surely yet to come.