This review was originally published during Fantastic Fest 2014.
Since festival audiences have already exhausted the “Spring is like…” comments over every form of social media (Spring is like Before Sunrise meets H.P. Lovecraft, for example), I’ll just plainly say that Spring is romantically horrific bliss, achieving perfection through tragedy and soul. Is there a subgenre of horror equatable to the “Mumblecore” scene yet? If not, filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have pioneered it, throwing together a loving tale that’s aided by a creature-feature subplot akin to a Troma production on super-steroids.
There’s something so primal and affectionate about Spring. It strikes an honesty that’s notably reminiscent to Richard Linklater’s or Joe Swanberg’s crowning work. It’s the most regal of Shakespearean epics meets the most sinister Joe Dante feverdream, striking a wealth of emotional riches while also utilizing beastly effects reminiscent of Landis’ An American Werewolf In London and many other skin-tearing affairs. But comparisons aside, Benson and Moorhead have created a groundbreaking, monumental film that can simply be described as sublime perfection.
Lou Taylor Pucci plays Evan, a directionless cook who just suffered through the death of his sickly mother. After losing his job and reassessing his current situation, he decides to travel Europe with the hope that a foreign odyssey will help reassemble the scattered remnants of his life. Hopping on a flight to Italy, Evan eventually finds himself in a small coastal town working on a farm, living a humble life of a different flavor. It’s here where Evan meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), and he’s immediately smitten by the radiant Italian vixen. Spending countless nights together, the two form an instant bond as Evan finally feels a bit of stability in his life. But just as quickly as comfort sets in, we learn a dark secret about Louise that constantly threatens the blossoming relationship – something that might even cost Evan his life if not dealt with properly.
Just as Benson and Moorhead accomplished in Resolution, Spring breezes through scenes in the most effortless of manners. Characters never have to establish chemistry because their personalities radiate from the moment they’re introduced, be it Evan’s distraught complexities or the cheeky Brits spewing obscenities and drinking like fish. Each exchange is honest yet hilarious, hitting on the blunt nature of reality, as actors like Vinny Curran and Jeremy Gardner offer Evan words of wisdom that avoid a safely candy-coated nature. In the same respect, the love between Louise and Evan finds sweet, rooted notes of genuine attraction, and their dilemma only strengthens a bond that hits the emotional highs of a Richard Curtis movie. At its core, Spring is a raw relationship drama about inevitability and futility, challenging the bounds of eternity in the name of a enviable romance.
But then Spring introduces a constantly evolving creature aspect that engages audiences like a violent mood swing, making for the most unique of lovestruck dramas. Benson and Moorhead waste absolutely no time revealing a monster that hides in plain sight, gripping viewers with blood-soaked rituals and horrific transformations. This enables two completely different genres to coexists harmoniously as one genre-bending masterpiece, touching our hearts while simultaneously shocking our senses. Date nights between Evan and Louise are often soft and revealing, while the monster’s engagements are often slimy, brutal and presented through transformative practical effects that would make mainstream horror directors blush. Benson and Moorhead find warm resemblances of Blue Valentine‘s sincerity while also unleashing gorified reinterpretations of a smattering of the most vicious creature features, all genetically blending into one sinfully addictive superbeast.
Spring challenges all previous and future competition as the most beautiful film of 2014, presenting a spectacularly acted and ferociously rambunctious horror hybrid that makes Nicholas Sparks adaptations look like child’s play. Benson and Moorhead have created a perfect date movie for all the horror lovers who are subjected to abysmal Hollywood romcoms that regurgitate nothing but the same formulaic bullshit by way of chiseled shirtless studs and makeout sessions in the rain. The duo touch hearts without subjecting viewers to false chemistry and un-stomachable superficiality, instead opting for blood, guts and death. Love’s futility has never been cut with such carnage, finding a way to turn mortal finality into a poetic message that waxes lyrically about how a passionate romance can wash away the bleakest days in a wave of hypnotic bliss. Sometimes all it takes is a bottle of wine and a pizza.
Few movies have achieved such an artful, tasteful balance, and Spring has just set the bar that much higher.
Spring is both a whimsical love story and intensified creature feature, standing as one of the most artful interpretations of eternal romance achieved since, well, never.