Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
One of the most anticipated genre films at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival is the sophomore directorial effort from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who exploded onto the scene after their 2012 directorial debut, Resolution, won over the hearts of horror reviewers and fans everywhere. This time around the duo shifted their focus from bromance to romance, and they have successfully turned the clichéd romantic drama genre on its head with Spring.
Wasting no time to pull on viewers’ heartstrings, Benson and Moorhead immediately introduce the audience to Evan (Evil Dead’s Lou Taylor Pucci), a young man who is definitely down on his luck.
After losing his mother and his job in the same week, he decides to flee the country and spontaneously travels to Italy using the inheritance money his mother had left him. After he arrives in Italy, Evan leads a standard backpacker’s life as he travels, parties and drinks with other tourists. It’s love at first sight when he meets the enigmatic Louise (played by Nadia Hilker), and although at first she seems emotionally unavailable, a passionate romance develops between the two of them at a very rapid pace.
Everything seems right in Evan’s world; however, he doesn’t know that Louise is a bloodthirsty monster and each day she struggles to hide her dark secret that will surely tear their romance (and possibly Evan) apart.
With their second feature, Benson and Moorhead once again provide scares and laughs, while also relying heavily on the audience’s assumptions and expectations that thankfully limit the possible outcomes of the horror that is awaiting them. Is Louise a vampire, a werewolf, witch or alien? These are some of the questions the directors want viewers to ask themselves as they pull the rug from right under them when they reveal the true nature of Louise’s “supernatural” powers.
Spring plays with the conventions and clichés of the romance and horror genres and is sprinkled with knowing references and loving odes to films ranging from Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy to the 1992 John Landis cult horror film Innocent Blood. Although Spring manages to hook viewers in with familiar tropes seen in both genres, it ultimately prevails due to its refreshingly original concept and mythology that has never been seen before on screen.
The film’s biggest strength of course is its two leads as Pucci and Hilker have a natural chemistry with one another. Unlike in other films that contain grand gestures and perfectly planned romantic outings, Evan and Louise’s romance blooms from witty and believable conversations, sharing wine, romps in the sack and the ability of being able to stuff their faces with food with one another. It is this realistic and palpable depiction of love that makes Spring an intriguing watch and will make you forget that you are, in fact, watching a “monster” movie.
On the other hand, hard-core horror fans may feel a little let down that the monster element is purely circumstantial in Spring. Having said that, it shouldn’t deter your from seeing this film as the special effects, scares and gorgeous location are as enchanting as the love story itself. Overall, Spring is a solid sophomore directorial effort from Benson and Moorhead and is definitely proof that they are one step closer to becoming household names in the genre.
4 out of 5