Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
MPAA Rating: NR
“Love is a monster” is the tagline for the latest film from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the directors of the underrated horror film Resolution. In the case of their film Spring, it is both metaphorically and physically true.
“Love is blind.” “Love can move mountains.” “All you need is love.” Love is the driving force behind this disarming, unexpectedly charming and engrossing horror-drama. Gareth Edwards’ Monsters was very much a hybrid of Before Sunrise with aliens. Spring can be easily described as the monster version of the Before trilogy. And very much like Resolution, Benson and Moorhead take the film where you least expect.
Evan’s life has been completely thrown into a tailspin. His mother passes away, and then he gets into a brutal fight, loses his job and finds himself wanted by the police. He takes someone’s advice to “just get away,” literally change the scenery and recenter himself. He randomly jets off for Italy with nothing more than a backpack, the clothes on his back and his phone. There he meets a couple of blokes, and they set off to explore the Italian coast.
On their journey they stop in a beautiful coastal town where he encounters a mysterious woman named Louise, becomes enamored with the locale and decides to stick around for awhile. While there, he strikes up a romantic relationship with Louise, but little does he know that she’s harboring a dark secret, which can be both dangerous and deadly.
Spring is a horror film that values story over substance – the substance being the proverbial blood and guts that most horror fans expect and demand. For that reason, this film may not be for them. Many have complained, mostly die-hard horror aficionados, that Monsters was too boring because of all the talking and lack of monsters. For this viewer, it was all the talk that separated the film from the rest, and the same applies here.
What the two films have in common is that they were very much grounded in reality. Neither film lingered on the horror but focused on the human aspects of it all. Because they both treat the events like real-world problems, you become much more emotionally invested in the human drama, which in turn elevates the horrors that do unfold. Justin Benson’s screenplay doesn’t immediately reveal what afflicts Evan’s object of affection but does leave plenty of room to make you wonder, and you have fun trying to figure out just what her deal is. The story is in no rush to get to what most fans want but instead takes its time developing its two lead characters and is all the better for it.
The film stars Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker as Evan and Louise, respectively. Pucci, last seen in the remake of The Evil Dead, is very good as Evan. He’s quite convincing as a guy trying to get his life back together while clinging to what he feels is the best thing to have come into his life. Hilker is very believable as a woman who knows what she is and tries desperately to keep it under control while not revealing there is something wrong with her. Needless to say it results in some awkward situations that are played very well by both. There is a romance at the center of this horror film, and fortunately it is poignant, funny and convincing. If the chemistry between them didn’t work, then there would be no point to the entire undertaking.
Spring is a solid film that successfully blends many genres together, which should appeal to not just horror fans, but also film fans in general. The film’s visual effects, many of which look practical, are well done. It’s a very humanistic tale that features memorable characters, intriguing situations, an engrossing mystery and some occasional matter-of-fact deadpan humor. It’s another well-acted, -directed and -written film from this duo and will likely have you curious as to what they will do next.