Fantastic Fest 2014: Benson & Moorehead's 'Spring' a Big Surprise
by Jeremy Kirk
September 22, 2014
Unassuming, blindsiding, and masterful in how subtly it shakes you to your core, Resolution, the debut feature from co-director Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead, snuck onto the radar last year. Its exquisitely crafted screenplay made all the difference in helping it stand out from the crowd of recent horror. Now, with their follow-up, Spring, the duo pull off the unthinkable once again in giving us a horror film for the new age, one that isn't satisfied with jarring jump scares or found-footage cliches. Spring, like Resolution, twists the knife slowly, and the cerebral as well as emotional payoff is one of the best all year.
Lou Taylor Pucci stars as Evan, a young man at a crossroads in his life and unsure which path to take. He loses his mother to illness at the start of the film, his lowly bartender job shortly after. Evan decides it's time to get away from it all, and he packs up his few belongings for an adventure through Italy. What begins as a relaxing, cathartic romp through the beautiful country quickly becomes something more serious in Evan's life. He meets a girl, Louise (Nadia Hilker), in one of the villages, is immediately enamored by her, and the two spark a no-strings-yet-endearing relationship.
So far, it doesn't sound like much of a horror film, and if you're expecting wall-to-wall gore and incessant carnage you may be somewhat disappointed. Regardless, Spring is a different breed of horror film, a monster movie disguised as a love story with the perfect amount of each genre bleeding into the other. The passionate relationship between Evan and Louise blossoms with impeccable pace, humor, and wit, their very genuine and heartfelt conversations calling into mind some of the best work Richard Linklater put to film.
And, still, that seed of a horror film is planted early, solidly enough to dismiss any ambiguity, and slowly grows within the film from the inside out. Even referring to Spring as a "monster movie" is both too revealing and misleading. But that, too, is where the genius of Benson and Moorehead shines the greatest. Their films never take the obvious route, whatever tricks they have hiding up their sleeve sure to be an unexpected treat.
What keeps any of it from slipping away from maximum impact is how honestly and smartly each line of dialogue is written. Moments of levity seep in often, enough to commend the film on how authentically funny it is. The actors on the other side of that dialogue deliver it with pitch-perfect timing and sincerity. Pucci and Hilker display comfort in their interactions, their conversations and banter having a heavy hand in making you even forget at time that you are, in fact, watching a genre film. The Battery's Jeremy Gardner makes an early, brief, yet memorable appearance, his witty line-dropping setting a nice tone for the lighthearted portions to come.
As with Resolution, Benson and Moorehead tie the narrative strings around their latest film snuggly. Spring never flourishes, more rolls into a slow boil, but it's the perfect speed to draw you in, jolt you with stunning revelations and some faultless creature effects, and prime you for the emotionally unexpected finale. In all that it does and doesn't say about love, relationships, and the necessity for human connectivity, Spring moves you to tears in how beautifully stated it is. It's what you look for in a perfect, cinematic experience, to be surprised by how much it resonates in you and makes your mind reel. Spring is the surprise of the year.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk
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