❉ Nick Clement presents his assessments of cinematic gems and cult oddities.
The less you know about the sublime genre bender Spring the better off you’ll be. This is an incredible, unnerving piece of romantic drama science-fiction, a film that’s as rich in atmosphere as it is in layered character development, with a dash of speculative fantasy, a ton of honest heart and emotion, and some truly icky and spectacular special effects. Spring feels like the trippy after effects of Richard Linklater and H.P. Lovecraft getting together to combine talents and forces. Multi-hyphenate wonder-boys Justin Benson (co-editor, co-producer, co-writer, co-director) and Aaron Moorhead (co-editor, cinematographer, co-producer, co-writer, co-director) borrow the walking and talking aesthetic from Linklater’s Before Trilogy, and fuse elements of psychological and physical horror that would make Cronenberg proud; this film is as thought provoking as it is visually arresting, and it’s a piece of work that will likely hold up extremely well over multiple viewings.
If you know anything about me as a film lover, you’ll know that it takes a lot for me to get really excited about a “horror” movie, and while Spring is certainly horrific, it has so much more on its mind than just grossing out the viewer with cheap gore and lame gotcha! scares. When the ideas are this exciting, the performances this involving, and the filmmaking this confident, you can’t help but take notice.
Evan (the unassuming and quietly awesome Lou Taylor Pucci) has just lost his mother to cancer in the film’s painful opening scene. To get over the loss, on a whim, he decides to go to Italy, just to get away from it all, see something new, in an effort to gain some new life experience. He lucks into an apartment at an ancient olive farm run by a very old farmer (a perfect Francesco Carnelutti, exuding both mystery and poignancy and slight menace), and while walking around this picturesque village he’s found himself in, he has a chance encounter with the alluring and sexy Louise (Nadia Hilker, in a truly startling performance that will both transfix and scare), who just so happens to be more than just the prototypical Italian beauty. From there, a romance is born, the two budding lovers stroll around and get to know one another, but under a unique set of circumstances.
I hesitate to reveal ANYTHING more than this. Pucci and Hilker have tremendous chemistry with one another, and both are asked to run a gamut of emotions, and I have to say, I loved every single creative choice made by this film, from the ambient, Social Network-esque score, to the consistently stylish imagery, to the reliance on practical special effects which were then augmented (not dominated) by CGI. There’s humor, there’s sex, there’s sadness, and by the end, there’s something that approaches the magisterial. I’m telling you – Spring is so much more than just a sexy-female-monster movie.
I think what I loved so much about Spring was that it was constantly subverting my expectations, especially the glorious finale, which reminded me very much of Gareth Edwards’ similarly low-budget creature feature Monsters.
Both films expertly juggled tones (Spring has some great and unexpected humor during the final stretch) and created a fantastical landscape that was believable enough in its own realm. If you’re going to go out on a limb with your story, the filmmaking and storytelling chops have to have a certain integrity, and that’s why I loved Spring so much – it felt so confident, so assured, so totally all of a piece. The gauzy, dreamy, 2.35:1 cinematography immediately engrosses the viewer, and Moorhead’s ability to convey terror through silent, ominous shots of the Italian landscape is terrific. I loved how he was constantly juxtaposing the inherent beauty of the Italian coast with all of this nightmarish imagery.
I love it when a genre film is able to surprise, when it takes the framework of something you’ve seen before, flips some switches, and turns the narrative around on itself so that everyone is surprised, the viewer and the actors in the film. The way Spring concludes made me clap in my living room – that’s how much I loved the final beats. This is the kind of film for anyone who is looking for something a bit unusual, something that’s not interested in playing by the normal cookie-cutter set of rules. Spring is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and various streaming providers, and is one of those under the radar gems that deserves a big cult audience.
❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.
❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.