"I just saw a zombie shooting heroin."
Two years ago Aaron Benson and Justin Moorehead made the highly ambiguous and ambitious low budget film RESOLUTION. At Horror-Movies.ca, I championed the film with a glowing review and it also made its way into the 13 MIND BLOWING HORROR MOVIES OF 2013 as an honorable mention. For their first film, they tackled themes of friendship, drug abuse, the haunting re-occurrence of history, and indecipherable endings. Resolution, at its heart is a drama about two childhood friends. Without the horror, Benson and Moorehead would have created a great indie buddy film. With their second feature, they continue this concept. The horror of SPRING is secondary to the budding relationship of the story.
I was provided the opportunity to see SPRING at the Telluride Horror Show last October. In all of my research leading up to the festival, I overlooked the fact that it was the same directors behind RESOLUTION. It was a rookie mistake, but when I saw their names pop up in the credits I was even more excited than before. Prior to that screening there wasn't much in the way of reviews, criticisms, or word-of-mouth. I had no expectations going into the film. It was the last screening after a twelve hour day of horror and it still held a captive audience.
Lou Taylor Pucci, who proved himself as a young actor in the indie scene back in 2005 with the back-to-back release of Thumbsucker and The Chumscrubber, is no stranger to horror films. Though I'm not too keen on the remake craze, he was great in Evil Dead (2013). In Spring, Pucci handles himself with a soaring grace. Pucci's Evan is a character in conflict. Though the grief of being without a family hits him hard, there is also a guilt-stricken freedom he's never been afforded before. He starts a new chapter of his life by travelling. What begins as a debaucherous adventure to soak his mourning in alcohol, eventually becomes a longing for companionship. This is when Louise (Nadia Hilker) enters his life. Louise is a beautiful and brilliant scientist who has traveled the world, knows countless languages, and somehow is seduced by the broken Evan. At this point we begin to ask ourselves about the horror. Louise has a mystery to her that feels ominous as does the atmosphere of the film. While the cinematography utilizes every aspect of this picture-esque fishing village, it also infuses extreme close-ups of battling insects and decaying animal carcasses. The score emphasizes a foreboding by amplifying sounds of the insect kingdom to a point of distortion. We truly feel the horror way before any is shown to us.
SPRING moves from being an homage to Richard Linklater's Before trilogy into the realm of H.P. Lovecraft during its final act. Some will disagree with any mention of 'the ancient ones' in regards to this film, but who else are we to credit with transformative creatures that defy category? The love story that blooms in Spring is not normal by rom-com or rom-dram standards, there is an obvious reason for this and one more subtle. Evan and Louise are not lovers like Noah and Alice or even Romeo and Juliet, they form a bond out of necessity. Evan has been caring for others most of his adult life, while Louise has been running away from others. When Evan's life becomes a meaningless void he seeks to fill it with someone to care for. Louise has never known full acceptance until meeting Evan. He becomes the first person she can disclose anything to without judgement or fear. This is not a love often seen on celluloid. Moments after the film's conclusion we wonder what will become of their relationship. It provides us a similar feeling as The Graduate did in 1967.
The creature effects fit perfectly within the story. Though the monstrous images stand out, they do not detract from the love story being told. Benson and Moorehead have struck gold again. By not falling victim to the repetitive nature of horror tropes they have solidified themselves as new and innovative voices in genre-bending cinema. If they continue this course of treating the horror in their material as secondary to the story, I see a long career of thought provoking indie films in their future.