Following their mildly acclaimed 2012 effort Resolution, directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead further establish themselves as some of the most promising gruesome genre mechanics to be observed – if from a safe and secure distance. In their new film Spring they turn their gaze to a beloved titan of the macabre, channeling an eternal struggle of the ancient ones that H.P Lovecraft would enjoy, with creatures most cryptic dwelling among an unsuspecting population.
With little to lose and in desperate need of a life kick-start, American Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) flees his dead-end life for Italy after his mother dies from a prolonged bout of cancer, his uncommitted and unfocused career as a chef also failing to warm up. Listlessly following the boozy backpack trail, he meets the stunningly beautiful Louise (Nadia Hilker) in a sleepy sun-dappled beach town, and takes a labouring role at a local farm in order to let their fledgling romance breathe. All is not as it seems, however, as strange, inexplicable disappearances are affecting the town, suggesting that some creature is stealthily stalking the populace, all or whom may not be what they initially seem either.
The genre strain has been strong at this year’ss London Film Festival, with a few superior beings squatting in the cult movie pack. Despite its rather lackadaisical title, Spring is a superior sloppy configuration of Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, the fish out of water nervosa of An American Werewolf in London, and, blasphemously, the romantic regeneration of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. It’s a fresh take on an old formula: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, girl happens to be some necrosis-fixated ghoul with a ravenous appetite for the life-quenching blood of the living (this is not a spoiler, as this is all in the trailer and is swiftly established in the narrative). With the film, Moorehead and Benson tread that tremulous line of the absurd and amusing with a maturity that belies their two feature pedigree.
Hilker portrays Louise not as some ravenous succubus but as a sympathetic creature caught in a rather unfortunate genetic grift, with Pucci being understandably besotted and willing to risk his very soul for the sake of potential happiness, of having nothing to lose and everything to gain with the most intriguing creature to puncture his difficult life. With a keen eye for mood and visual exposition, the directors scatter the film with images of bugs in metamorphic transitions, spiders stalking flies, and the natural world in its necrotic cycle of death and rebirth, all signaling scene shifts with a deft display of thematic editing. Both leads spark with the requisite reservoirs of shared charisma, especially when the film’s lurking horror is fully revealed; Moorehead and Benson even manage to weave in a few deft gags and a pleasing in-universe logic behind Louise’s irrepressible and ancient appetites. A rom-com with horns on, Spring poses the strangely reassuring notion that even the eternal eldritch just want to be loved.
– John McEntee