Thursday, April 02, 2015

Spring / *** (UR)

Evan: Lou Taylor Pucci
Louise: Nadia Hilker

Drafthouse Films presents a film directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. Written by Benson. Running time: 109 min. Unrated (contains sexuality including graphic nudity, disturbing images, violence, and language).

After a winter like many on the East Coast experienced this year, people were ready to believe anything could be an improvement. Over the long months of storm after accumulating storm, the walls were beginning to move in on the psyche and many were ready to move someplace warmer. But, always comes the spring—a rebirth of nature and the spirit. Nature, however, holds many mysteries, and sometimes you might wish it had stayed in hibernation. Such are the discoveries of the hero in Justin Benson’s and Aaron Moorhead’s new horror/romance “Spring”, a moody nightmare that turns the tables on the expectations of the horror genre, giving way to another genre all together.

Evan has been in a tailspin of late. His mother has just died of cancer. As her only family, the burden fell completely on his shoulders. After her funeral, he gets into an altercation with a barroom bully, oblivious to his loss or temper. After beating the man nearly to death, Evan is fired and told that what he might need is to get away from it all. When the man’s gangbanger friends drive by his house the next day followed by a visit from the police, Evan decides getting away from it all may not be such a bad idea.

He heads to Europe and hooks up with a couple freewheeling guys in a hostel, who invite him to join them. When they find themselves in an Italian costal town, Evan decides to stay for a while, hoping to find a woman he met on their first day there. This beauty is Louise, who is beautiful, seems to genuinely like Evan and is hiding a very dark secret. Considering all of that, it is no surprise that Evan finds her and the two connect on a personal level.

The first half of the movie builds as a classic horror flick. We meet the characters and get to know them well enough to like them and root for them. Intercut as asides are incidents involving Louise. Tourists go missing. Shadows grow on streetlamp lit walls of the village. Louise takes strange drugs, and she looks pretty freaky before she has her morning coffee. The directors handle all of this with golden tinted lenses, a moody soundtrack by Jimmy Lavalle, and close-ups of body parts that aren’t human and seem squid-like. The ocean tourist location makes logical sense with the horror images delivered. And, the creature that appears to be some sort of transformation taken on by Louise is equipped with a particularly nasty looking stinger for full cringe factor.

Meanwhile Evan and Louise seem to have a genuine budding romance. They visit museums, eat outside of romantic caf├ęs, and look at each other lovingly. Lou Taylor Pucci continues to prove his versatility and chameleon-like nature as an actor. Nadia Hilker is a fitting beauty who is convincing as both a romantic partner and a predator. During their scenes together the movie takes on more of a romance structure. Still the golden tinting of the lighting serves the romance. Candlelight is just as fitting for romance as it is for horror. The coastal setting works with its beautiful vistas and the lulling effect of the ocean waves in the background. This is very much a romance.

As Louise’s secret nature becomes clearer and the horror aspect of the plot becomes more palpable, somehow the romance structure plays stronger in the plot. As with any movie romance, one partner eventually becomes cold and distant. In this case, instead of some silly notion contrived by the screenwriter that could be easily explained if the characters would just say a few sensible words to each other, Louise has a very good reason not to share her secret with Evan and instead pushes him away. Not only would she sound completely crazy, but Evan would most certainly run like a teenager trying to escape the man in the hockey mask on Crystal Lake. He might possibly even inform the authorities.

It’s the logic of this horror romance that works so well here. Justin Benson’s screenplay seamlessly combines the formula for horror and for romance in a way that is utterly original. At times it is almost clinical, which makes it a little difficult to connect with the emotional element of the romance; but the horror elements keep the film compelling. While some horror aficionados may find the ending weak, it does not betray the blending of genres successfully executed by the filmmakers here.

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