It takes more than gore and guts to impress true slasher fans now a days. Horror audiences have pretty much seen it all, from murderous dolls to dream haunters to evil leprechauns, but Hollywood can’t seem to line up enough sexy co-eds to sacrifice for our enjoyment.
Padraig Reynolds’ country fried horror Rites of Spring was the most recent felon to criminalize my beloved genre, capitalizing on nothing but recycled themes. I admit, I have my guilty pleasure delights which display less than captivating storytelling countered by an over-abundance of insanity, but Reynolds’ script fails to channel any such entertainment.
With so many discussion points amidst this debacle, lets start with Reynolds’ choice to mix a kidnapping thriller with a slasher film. The director thought it would be fun and inventive to have criminals get caught in a scenario way over their heads, akin to films like The Horde and From Dusk Till Dawn, which built up an enjoyable backstory. Such a sudden change in pace typically causes some jolt of excitement when the horror elements kick in, offering a unique viewing experience. Reynolds and his film combined to create an opposite response.
We’re first introduced to main character Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) and her generic friend Alyssa as they’re drinking in a bar. Shortly after, the two are are kidnapped by a creepy old ritual believer, hinting something creepy is afoot. Then we meet our cliché ridden criminals who kidnap a young girl from a wealthy family, hoping for a large payday. It’s from this extremely early point that Reynolds’ film derails itself, hurdling sloppily towards an inevitable fate.
From the moment we get to know each vagrant, predicting the entire series of events to follow becomes a cakewalk. Reynolds’ script spoon feeds foreshadowing information entirely too early and often, falling pray to every overused clue dropping method. If you don’t trust somebody, don’t bring him on your team! If you want to keep a family member safe, don’t involve him! If you want to be a nice guy, don’t turn to crime! Reynolds didn’t even attempt to hide the twists and turns, creating a lazy corn maze that follows one straight path.
None of the true horror even starts until Rachel breaks free from her captor and lets out an undead scarecrow type baddie named Wormface, leading the creature to where our moronic thugs are hiding.
Building towards our slasher’s true introduction, there wasn’t much going on excitement wise. Reynolds incorporated some “tortue porn horror” and tried to surprise us thirty minutes too late with wrenches thrown into the kidnapping, but it all exists as a giant snooze-fest. At least our hearts were racing for a few minutes when Wormface chased Rachel directly into the hornet’s nest, but it ultimately ended up being nothing but a big, boring tease. Oh Wormface, you saucy minx you.
In terms of horror, Reynolds fails to bring anything refreshing to Rites of Spring. It’s hack and slash 101, full of stolen material and mind numbing clichés which prevent what could have been memorable kills from even making the slightest impact. He also neglects to build a fascinating backstory for his new creature, saying in an interview with Bloody Disgusting that he wanted to keep those details “ambiguous” so he could explore them in the inevitable sequel. All we’re given is some folklore type belief that if Wormface is given his sacrifices every spring, crops will flourish and a bountiful harvest awaits the old stranger housing our creature – who he apparently is realted to? Why not expand upon such intriguing facts?
Giving Wormface an identity instead of having a character exist just to chase victims around could have saved some credibility and might have actually set up a sequel nicely, but Reynolds wasted this golden opportunity and instead makes us question if we even want to gamble on another entry.
Performances didn’t help save this doomed slasher either, as Rites of Spring left much to be desired. I typically like A.J. Bowen and his supporting roles, but the whole kidnapper with a heart of gold routine did not fit his persona one bit. Bowen’s character Ben Geringer managed to test my nerves over only a few short scenes of hesitant doubt, but wasn’t the only offender. Anessa Ramsey’s “survivor girl” Rachel also ate away at my patience, between constantly screaming and thinking hiding in obvious places would save her from Wormface. The rest of our cast is made up of expendables who might as well have been cardboard cutouts that spurted fake blood when Wormface finished them, so there’s nothing worth even glancing over in that respect.
Maybe Rites of Spring will hold more clout with farmers and myth beilevers, but I couldn’t find any enjoyment viewing the fruits of Padraig Reynolds’ labor. Between uninspired acting and an almost insultingly underdeveloped script, Wormface and company fail to caputre any originality or creativity. We’re only left more jaded as stale and repetative horror is forced down our throats, failing to produce even the slightest squirm.
Reynolds’ swift ending suited Rites of Spring all too well, leaving viewers with aggravation developed early in the film. It’s funny how things come full circle, isn’t it?