Before we go any further, let’s make no bones about it; Spring is barely a horror film. At its heart it’s a romance, and quite a sweet one at that. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, fresh from the critical acclaim of their lower-than-low budget flick Resolution, have crafted quite an earnest love story that’s accessible to those who’d normally steer clear of romantic tales.
Evan is a down-on-his-luck chap. His Mum has just passed away after what we’re lead to believe was a lengthy and aggressive illness, he’s just lost his job after a drunken punch-up in a bar and he seems less than successful with the ladies in his life. He does, however, have a valid passport and a reason to flee the US after the police come knocking on his door.
After a somewhat bloated pre-amble through Europe, Evan winds up in rural Italy where he finds a job and lodgings with a local eccentric farmer Angelo. On his first day there, he meets the intoxicatingly beautiful Louise who he immediately forms a tentative bond with after a clumsy encounter.
Over the next week we’re treated to glimpses of their fledgling love affair, all passionate encounters, gleeful teasing and deep and meaningful conversations about their respective pasts. It’s here that the obvious comparisons to Richard Linklater‘s seminal Before Sunrise come into play. The similarities end there though as we start to see that Louise is hiding a dark, primordial secret that may tear them apart before their bond is cemented.
Spring has only two central characters, with only a couple more notable characters on the outskirts of the story, but the directors have utilised their location with such affection that Italy begins to feel like the third wheel in Evan and Louise’s romance, constantly vying for the viewers attention. The handful of locations are shot in such a sumptuous, dreamy way that it almost works as an advert for Italy’s tourism board. The lighting, the framing and the colour grading all mesh incredibly well to make a film that’s truly stunning to look at. The vibrant reds and shots of insects peppered throughout also serve to remind us of the films dark edge whenever things start to feel a little formulaic.
Lou Taylor Pucci has been plugging away in the indie scene for well over a decade now and horror audiences will know him best from his turn as meek Necronimicon-toting Eric in Fede Alvarez’s sublimely bloody Evil Dead remake. Here he’s incredibly believable as a down-to-Earth fuck-up with hearts in his eyes. It’s not a career-making turn but he gives it his all and is a perfect match for Nadia Hiliker’s hyper-confident, exotic Louise. It’s a fine pairing and they’re fun to watch together for the most part.
My only real complaint isn’t with the film itself, but the way it was marketed. After seeing the trailers, I was eagerly awaiting a more traditional creature feature and was initially disappointed, but after a second and third viewing and a lot of percolating I’ve come to appreciate Spring for the unique experience that it is. It’s perhaps a tad too long and there are a couple of cockney wideboy stereotypes in the first third that quickly start to grate, but the comical and sometimes surprisingly tender exchanges between Evan and Angelo and the realistically charming and imperfect relationship of Evan and Louise more than make up for it.
Spring is a beautiful and simple movie with an unusual and entertaining twist, the mixture of practical effects and restrained use of CGI works well and although the last fifteen minutes sees a change of pace, it’s more satisfying than it has any right to be. This is definitely one for a more open-minded horror audience but if you’re not averse to very human storytelling alongside your gore then you’d do well to give Spring two hours of your precious time.
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