An intoxicating alchemy of Shelly and Linklater, Spring is a romantic cross-genre creature feature that is chilling, bold and beautiful.
Before Sunriseby Dave O'Flanagan
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Eschewing the tropes and hooks of horror that big-budget films rely so heavily upon, Spring bolsters the ranks of a recent coup of low-budget films that are daring in their scaring. Following the critical success of It Follows and 2014’s The Babadook, co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s latest film is one that elusively tiptoes delineation. The maelstrom of metaphors that permeate this creature-feature ensure that its appeal extends beyond its patent horror exterior. The beguiling balance between a boy meets girl and ‘girl is a terrifying monster’ mash narrative is successful in large part as a result of Benson’s script allied with the naturalistic performances from the film’s actors. While the evocative title of Benson and Moorehead’s film speaks to themes of birth and rebirth, Spring is a perfect summation of the imperfect and extraordinarily odd biochemical nature of love.
Following the death of his mother, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) gets caught up in an altercation that results in him fleeing from his small hometown in the United States. With little to no family to speak of, Evan decides to travel to Italy to escape a rather bleak looking future. When his travels finally bring him to the town of Puglia, Evan meets the beautiful and mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker). While romance blossoms between the two, there is also a primordial process at work inside of Louise that threatens the lives of both lovers.
Opening with a desaturated and depressing scene of a deathbed that has an unmistakeable guerilla, low-budget ingrained aesthetic, one would be forgiven for shifting any positive expectations south. Belying the ingenuity of Justin Benson’s script, Spring begins in a manner that invokes a sense of familiarity. This familiarity however is merely a means in which to introduce the main themes of death, grief and rebirth that are prevalent throughout. The ever-present sense of dread that hangs in the air of the environs of Spring is effectively introduced in an opening act that presents a claustrophobic and uncompromising glimpse into Evan’s uninspiring future. Once he embarks on his European vacation, the palette of the film is enlivened by colour and more expressive camera movements. The excitement and abandon of travel injects the film with a life that seemed altogether unlikely Stateside.
Despite the presence of an awfully hackneyed British ‘lager-lout’ duo, Benson’s patient build-up of character and story in the opening act is one of the most refreshing and welcome features. Lou Taylor Pucci is intriguingly restrained, his convincing portrayal of the earnest and guarded Evan serves as the perfect foil to the excellent Nadia Hilker as the vibrant Louise. Their conversations flow with consummate ease and spark with humour and warmth. It’s in this natural and honest portrayal of attraction and love that comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy are most warranted and impossible to avoid. Benson’s scripting is matched by co-director Moorehead’s imaginative cinematography. Gliding around the picturesque Italian town, it’s astonishing for a low-budget film to contain such a wealth of ambitious and beautiful camera movements. Moorehead’s camera feels like a supernatural presence in and of itself.
In spite of the genetic abnormalities that often manifest completely outside of her control or volition, Louise is a wonderful update to the famous movie monsters of old. An evolutionary Frankenstein, her abnormality is explained in a series of scenes that fuse mythology and genetics that is believable enough to go along with in the first instance. A wider interpretation of Louise’s condition hints at an interesting analogy of the societal demands placed on the female appearance. An accomplished geneticist, Louise injects herself with concoctions that hinder and delay her inevitable transformation. The convincing amalgam of practical and CG visual effects conjures a terrifying and often beautifully elegant creature.
Spring is a perfectly pitched cross-genre monster romance that patiently builds the characters that it wants you to care about. Aside from a pacing hiccup in the final third, it flows and swells to a satisfying conclusion. Pondering the finite nature of life, love and death, Benson and Moorehead’s film playfully subverts expectations with aplomb and vigour. It highlights the dark unknowns that exist in the recesses of the human mind, and the fact that there’s a monster in all of us, just wanting to be loved.
Spring is released on 22nd May 2015 in the UK