Mention the horror genre in a crowded room and one is expected to receive a very mixed response. Divided by insane amounts of sub-genres and generally sold on the promise of a bucket-load of jump-scares, it’s arguable that horror is more alive now than ever before. With the rise of digital filmmaking, anyone with a dark room and a Halloween mask can craft a budget chiller, so how does one make their’s stand out? Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead discovered the answer some time ago: horror with a heart.
Following the eventual death of his terminally ill mother and the loss of his job at a local bar, Evan decides it’s time for a fresh start. Boarding the first plane to Italy, he soon finds himself trapped in a small coastal town, nearly penniless and with nothing but a basic farming job to keep him sane. Enter Louise, an English-speaking beauty who appears almost completely out of the blue, and sweeps Evan well and truly off his feet. But alas, the American soon finds all is not quite as it seems, and his mysterious new girlfriend may not be as human as he first thought.
To attempt to classify Spring as an out-and-out horror film may well be somewhat of a futile task. In fact, to classify it under any title other than ‘hybrid’ would be a flat-out lie, for there are few films more deeply devoted to multiple genres than this one. Although in its initial approach Spring first appears to be a life drama – a road movie with smatterings of romance hinted throughout – by its third act it has indeed morphed into something else entirely: a balls-out creature-feature, but a tender one at that.
Filmmaking duo Benson and Moorhead present these warring styles with a sense of subtlety that comes as deeply unexpected. However, by unfolding their narrative in such a twisted fashion, they also ultimately sacrifice any real connection with what is going on. Although the romance of the piece is beautifully built, with leads Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker achieving an enviously natural rapport, this is all but flattened by the horror movie tropes wheeled in for the film’s final act. The concluding third of the movie finds itself completely swamped in explaining unnecessary amounts of rules and mythology and in the process, loses out on the finale it deserves. What Benson and Moorhead have attempted is incredible to watch and think about, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it works. By failing to knit the two genres together closely enough, Spring’s tonal shifts come across as rather random, trampling all of the well-built emotion previously set out in their wake.
Attempting to wrangle the likes of both Before Sunrise and The Wolfman is definitely no easy task, so the fact that Benson and Moorhead’s effort doesn’t completely work is no big surprise. The important factor here is that they tried, and although ultimately Spring doesn’t hang together brilliantly, its experimental nature is to be admired. At least someone is keeping the lights on.
Spring, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival on 12 October. Tickets are available from whatson.bfi.org.uk. Watch the trailer below.