“Love is a monster.”
Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Vanessa Bednar
Synopsis: A young man in a personal tailspin flees the US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret.
This review contains mild spoilers.
It’s not often you come across a life-affirming horror movie, but that is essentially what Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have given us here. To be fair, Spring is much more of a romance than it is a horror. In fact, there isn’t even a hint of anything mildly horrific until we’re 35 minutes into the movie. It’s a mix that really shouldn’t work, and it’s quite possible that die-hard fans of either genre might end up being turned off by the unusual combination. For everyone else, Spring should provide a refreshingly original spin on both, even though its story is thin. It’s more about ideas – about the realities of everlasting life in a world of increasingly rapid change – than it is about telling a straightforward narrative, but those ideas are poorly served by the storyline.
Spring starts out as a grim, downbeat urban drama. The opening scene shows Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci – Beginners, Evil Dead) tending to his cancer-stricken mother during her final moments, after which he gets into a fight in some seedy bar. His opponent comes off second-best and is bent on revenge, and when he wakes up to find the cops knocking on his door, Evan decides it’s time to move on. He splits for Italy on a whim and briefly falls in with a pair of loutish, but friendly, Brits with whom he travels to a picturesque coastal village. It’s there that he meets the worldly and beautiful Louise (Nadia Hilker), whom he soon comes to believe just might be the love of his life. But, even in the midst of his romantic thrall, Evan can’t help suspecting that Louise isn’t being entirely honest about her past.
Spring is all about renewal, about death and rebirth; images and symbolism focused on this theme abound and provide the key to the secret which Louise attempts in vain to conceal from her new lover. The slow burn gives Benson and Moorhead time to explore the two lead characters, but they seem incapable of making them particularly interesting. Evan is likeable enough, and Louise is sultry and pouting and deliberately vague (which isn’t helped by Hilker’s sometimes unintelligible accent), but they don’t really have much of any note to say to one another. The film tries to hoodwink its audience into believing there is danger when none truly exists, which guarantees an ultimately disappointing ride for horror fans, most of whom will probably feel that they’ve been robbed of a conventional climax. It’s a bold move on the part of the co-directors, and the quality of their work is beyond reproach, but Spring’s dreamlike pace and beautiful locations are better suited to a straightforward romantic drama.
(Reviewed 26th May 2015)