Dig it, guys! Spring (review) directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead just hit us off with a list of some of their favorite European scary movies to share with you cats. Look for Spring in theaters and on VOD from Drafthouse Films and FilmBuff March 20th.
Kill List – Every piece of sound design, every ominous shot, every note of music — it all builds the fabric of the wonderfully creepy climax. We discovered this UK masterpiece when people who saw our first movie, Resolution, thought it would appeal to our sensibilities — there is no greater compliment. The quietly eerie tone gave us a little extra confidence to continue our own mythic unease with Spring.
Pan’s Labyrinth – First off, the cinematography won an Oscar over Children of Men that year; that’s an almost impossible task. Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish Civil War fable is a wonderful example of forsaking well-worn monsters for myth innovation. The same spirit of ingenuity runs through Spring and this humiliating film festival promo video:
28 Days Later – UK representing again. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took possibly the most exhausted monster mythology and made it equally fresh and frightening. The mark of quality to aim for, Spring was made with the same intended level of being fucking awesome. And they shot on MiniDV and didn’t give a shit.
The Orphanage – What is it about Spain that makes for such incredible craftsmanship in the realm of supernatural horror? This is a classy example of drama-forward genre storytelling and one of the best cinematic “ghost stories” of all time. Justin can’t talk about the end without crying, and with Spring we strove for the same “Bensonian character forward tears.”
Don’t Look Now – Italy in decay, a mystery rife with red herrings, creepy stoic people staring — lots of accidental shared DNA with Spring here. Justin was going to watch it but is utterly terrified of red clothing.
House with the Laughing Windows / Don’t Torture a Duckling / Illustrious Corpses – Three very different Italian giallo films not to be trivialized by sharing a category, we list them together here because oddly every time you frame a wide shot in dehydrated Southern Italy or shoot mummified monks, it looks like a tribute to these. Regardless of intention, we should have been paying homage to these gems, and Spring proudly shares some visual elements.
Wake in Fright – The Australian champion of timelessly unsettling mood, when Justin saw this at a film festival he quit drinking beer for at least an hour. Another fish out of water story that set the standard for the brand of bizarre macabre on display in Spring. (*Note from Aaron: Justin didn’t know Australia isn’t part of Europe. I leave this here not as a commentary on the California education system, but because I love Wake in Fright that much.)
Citadel – Ciaran Foy’s unbelievably solid debut feature is a perfect example of human emotion guiding the scares, neither one existing without the other. It has been said that his Mortal Kombat skills overshadow his filmmaking prowess, but we would have not “borrowed” his use of emotions in Spring if this were true.
Honorable mentions (because our list got too long or it’s on too many other lists or they scared Justin or he didn’t know if their corresponding countries were in Europe): The Wicker Man (UK), The Vanishing (France), Insensible (France-Spain), Let the Right One In (Sweden).
Benson and Moorhead directed Spring from Benson’s script. Evil Dead star Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker appear in the sci-fi horror film.
Evan (Pucci) is a young American fleeing to Europe to escape his past. While backpacking along the Italian coast, everything changes during a stop at an idyllic Italian village, where he meets and instantly connects with the enchanting and mysterious Louise. A flirtatious romance begins to bloom between the two – however, Evan soon realizes that Louise has been harboring a monstrous, primordial secret that puts both their relationship and their lives in jeopardy.