US | 2014 | Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead
Logline: An orphaned young American man escapes to Italy and begins a whirlwind romance with a beautiful, mysterious, and elusive woman.
There is so much to love about Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s sophomore effort, but it comes at a price. After the brooding science fiction nightmare that was Resolution, one of my favourite horror movies of 2013, and my interview with them revealing their next production, Spring, I was sold immediately. If it was even half-as-good as Resolution it would still be an interesting and compelling movie. Weel, it's maybe three-quarters-good, which is ultimately a shame, because I really, really, wanted to love Spring. I wanted it to be my next Monsters, my next Bellflower, one of those hybrid movies that utterly entranced me.
Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is not in a good place. His mother, riddled with cancer, passes away in front of him. That night, whilst drinking at the joint he cooks at, he gets into a brief, violent altercation, and is fired. Drunk at home he makes a booty call, but passes out. With a hangover, he takes heed of his colleague’s advice and gets the hell out of dodge. He arrives in Italy and immediately finds himself tailing along with two Poms to picturesque Puglia, on the south coast. They end up bailing, but not before Evan strikes up a conversation with a local, Louise (Nadia Hilker), a sultry brunette with spunk to burn.
Over the next week Evan and Louise get to know each other … but not that much. It’s a classic summer romance, all red wine, ocean breezes, coy propositions and stolen kisses. Evan falls head over heels; he’s got nothing to lose. Louise plays a different game; she’s got everything to lose, so no strings attached is where she’s at.
“Love is a monster” is Spring’s tagline, and the poster depicts tentacles surrounding the silhouette of a slim female. This is a romantic drama that slides into a creature feature. It’s a fresh take on the conventional vampire or werewolf tale where the innocent protagonist falls for the antagonist harbouring a dark and dangerous secret. There are so many elements that work beautifully in Spring; the likeable young American (I really enjoyed Pucci in the Evil Dead reimagining), the rustic Italian setting, especially that bay, the gorgeous “femme fatale” (a German native with one of those seductive hybrid accents), the dreamy, floating cinematography (washed out hues, and some stunning drone camerawork), the subtle score, the spare, but effective creature effects, and, most importantly, the wonderful lead performances.
It is the burgeoning adventure and subsequent romantic intrigue that provides the movie with its charming spine. There is a natural chemistry between the two leads, and their dialogue spills forth with a terrific ebb and flow. We soon understand there is something very wrong with Louise; she is dealing with a supernatural affliction, and Evan is getting in the way.
A movie that starts out as a naturalistic romance will inevitably hit a wall when the horror sub-text bursts to the surface, and Spring slams into it around the 2/3rd mark. Once Louise is revealed to Evan in all her slimy, primordial monstrosity the suspension of belief becomes a very heavy one. As Evan bravely hangs around and asks pertinent questions, and Louise does her best to answer them with all her bioscience gobbledygook, the movie’s charm slowly slid from my grasp. I became less interested, and even less convinced, the more Louise’s plight was revealed, and the more Evan tried in vain to rescue the woman he’d fallen for from the clutches of her ancestral evolutionary devices.
As tragi-romantic a fitting as Benson tried with his screenplay Spring, it was the narrative obscurity and the bleaker, more nihilistic, and overwhelmingly abrupt ending of Resolution that I desired.