Directed by Padraig Reynolds
In Rites of Spring we start off by following two separate storylines- one revolves around a group of kidnappers led by Ben (AJ Bowen), who abduct the daughter of a wealthy businessman in an effort to extort a large ransom out of the guy.
At the same time we see a young woman named Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) and her friend get kidnapped from the parking lot of a local bar and taken to a desolate farm in the middle of nowhere; their captor has taken them as part of his springtime ritualistic sacrifice for a mysterious creature known as “Wormface.”
As you can imagine, things don’t go according to plan for anyone in this film, and soon Rachel finds herself in the middle of a heist and kidnapping gone wrong as well as on the run from Wormface, with the creature further complicating issues for the kidnappers in the area, too. When he shows up to track down Rachel, our survivor girl and head kidnapper Ben are soon on the run together, the intended prey of the supernatural creature who has been unleashed.
As a whole the story of Rites of Spring smacks of ambition and ingenuity, but first-time filmmaker Padraig Reynolds stumbles a bit in his execution and never quite delivers the goods in the finale that he has been building up to during the rest of the film. Sure, Rites of Spring has some interesting twists and turns and boasts a rare unexpected nature to it, which is admirable to find in an indie project, but Reynolds takes a little more time than he should setting the scene for viewers, which ultimately makes for a disconnect, especially considering the fact that most people will likely leave this film with more questions than answers by its conclusion.
Reynolds has said in a recent interview he’s planning to reveal more in future installments, but I guess I was hoping to get more of a sense of the world of Wormface and what his connection to our world is all about; with this being his debut into the genre world, I just wish Reynolds would have made a bolder statement as his introduction.
The film itself looks spectacular with Reynolds’ visual flair being a highlight of Rites of Spring; the movie is crisp and vibrant, and DP Carl Herse’s work here is top-notch with his approach giving the claustrophobic tale a bit of air to it through some stunning wide shots.
Another highlight to Rites of Spring is its leads, Ramsey and Bowen, who do almost all the heavy lifting throughout the flick; they’re both at the top of their game here and prove why they’re two of the top indie actors out there working today.
The creature design of Wormface is effectively creepy as well; the supernatural baddie is another bright spot in Rites of Spring although he is a bit underutilized (a cardinal sin in a creature feature). The dingy, worm-filled scarecrow-meets-mummy design is a ton of fun to watch whenever Wormface pops up on screen to chase down potential victims with his rusty axe and could potentially become another iconic face in modern horror if Reynolds decides to give us more of a sense of his monster down the line.
Overall, while Rites of Spring probably won’t be making too many top ten lists amongst hardcore genre fans this year, there is much that can be applauded about a first-time feature filmmaker taking some major risks with his debut genre-bending experiment by trying to combine elements of the horror and thriller genres and all with limited resources. It’s just unfortunate that the build-up in the film goes absolutely nowhere by the time the credits begin rolling, making Rites of Spring feel like someone who was in the middle of a great thought but never got around to finishing it.
Here’s hoping we get more answers – and Wormface – in the sequel.
2 1/2 out of 5