Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson. Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti. USA, 2014. IMDB: 6.7. My rating: 4/4. Love horror deconstruction.
Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead continue to trick the viewers with their second film and deconstruct the movie genres, now in a very romantic and sweet way. “Spring” is irresistible from the very beginning to the last frame. Just like the main characters of the movie, it enfolds you with charming and genuine story. And like “Resolution”, their previous movie, it’s more of a mystery, than horror.
It took me a while to have enough courage to approach this movie since I really adored “Resolution”, the debut picture of Benson and Moorhead. After reading the interviews and the premise, I was afraid that the directors would not be at a height of their first movie and pay too much attention to the horror genre itself. Oh oh oh. I couldn’t be more wrong. “Spring” is an incredibly refreshing romantic horror movie.
First. The story. After losing his mother and his job, Evans (Lou Taylor Pucci), a young American guy, decides to go wild and buys a random travel destination, participating in various parties and other craziness. He is impulsive, but… he simply feels lost. Evan accidentally meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a young Italian girl living in a small Italian city near the Amalfi coast. Soon he founds out that not everything is what it seems and there is some dark obscure truth behind Louise.
Second. The script, the location and how they intertwine is truly impressive. Justin Benson wrote the script during shooting ”Resolution” when he was still working at the restaurants. In various interviews the directors mention the difficulties they had in finding the funds even after a successful indie debut – they went to Cannes Festival covering all the expenses by themselves (normally that doesn’t work that way), then scouting the right locations in Italy and meeting some producers. The project was initially thought to be shot in Italy and you can feel it – the city is an integral part of the story and deserves a special word.
”Spring” makes you feel like you are right in the middle of an upcoming spring blossom.
It goes without saying how gorgeous is the location (it is actually Polignano a Mare), but what is important here is how Benson and Moorhead actually develop the characters in this ambient. The light, the nature, various life forms, the feel, the architecture and the spirit of the place blend organically with the story. There is some kind of sense of doom here. Some scenes of the movie were not even programmed, but were a pure luck, like, for example, a couple of dead birds. Benson and Moor, it seems, are keeping a secret about shooting something that may sound like a cliche on paper but turns out to be genuine and original. Like ”Resolution”, ”Spring” flows so naturally that you never look at the watch.
Benson and Moorhead approach the actual filming in a very mature way for such young directors. I read about how they both hate establishing shots, considering them waste of time (these usually wide shots show the whole location from a distance preparing the audience). So they used the drones and trying to find some unusual feel and peculiar angles. This kind of approach embraces the whole movie, without becoming it’s aim though (and many directors fall in this trap once finding an original visual style).
Third. The acting. Can’t praise more brilliant performance of Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. They found a perfect tone for the picture, giving you a sense of watching a seed that is breaking the ground and is slowly becoming a tree, deepening its roots. If Evans would be the seed, searching impulsively and painfully for something or somebody, then Louise, with all her transformations, would be the nature – water, sun – that comes and goes as she pleases. Their increasing connection reminds that loving means growing, and growing means taking more and more layers off yourself and the other person that can be painful. I would also like to give a special mention to Francesco Carnelutti, who played a old farmer. His character was sharp, kind and wise. Carnelutti passed away in 2015. He did his first role in 1969.
The dialogues often makes you stop and pinch yourself. When Evan arrives in the town, continuing his somewhat of a substance-based journey, he is quickly approached by a charming stranger, Louise… and you know what would happen in most romance movies, right? Here Evan asks whether she is a prostitute. By the way, it’s the debut film for Nadia Hilker. My standing ovation. Lou Taylor Pucci mentioned somewhere that before being actually contacted by Benson and Moorhead, he was actually searching for a love horror movie (on what his representatives said that such stories don’t exist).
Fourth. The music. Jimmy LaValle, a one man band (he performs as The Album Leaf) created tender and heartwarming tones for the picture. After graduating from college, Benson worked on documenting an album of The Album Leaf, it seems that now his past connection bring great results.
Like ”Resolution”, ”Spring” was greatly received everywhere and received various awards. Guillermo del Toro wrote in his Twitter, ”Just in case I wasn’t clear: Spring is one of the best horror films of this decade. And the only Lovecraftian film that has blown me away.”
Worth watching? Movies like ”Spring” make my faith in independent cinema stronger than ever. It is a heartfelt, layered and genuine love horror capable of saying lots of things. Surely one of the most refreshing and picturesque stories in many years, ”Spring” actually makes you feel like you are right in the middle of an upcoming spring blossom.