Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francisco Carnelutti
Directed by: Justin Benson (“Resolution”) and Aaron Moorhead (“Resolution”)
Written by: Justin Benson (“Resolution”)
In a genre where the Hollywood industry standard seems to be creating a landscape where things pop out of nowhere and sounds are cranked up to create jump scares that would catch even the most prepared person off guard, there is something to be said for a horror film that doesn’t need to rely on cheap sensory thrills to be effective. In “Spring,” co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead use romanticism and sharp dialogue to put a unique spin on the horror movie.
After losing his mother, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) finds himself without a job and without any living relatives. In an effort to get away from everything, he packs his bags and winds up on the Italian coast. There, Evan has a few chance run-ins with Louise (Nadia Hilker) and begins to spend more and more time with her. As they develop a quick and intense relationship, Louise’s shows signs of a secret that could keep the two apart.
There are a lot of moving narrative pieces with “Spring” that inform the characterization and the love story. When the two are introduced, they are both guarded, with Louise propositioning Evan for sex and Evan insisting on a date instead. For Evan, the loss of his parents has wounded him and served as a reminder of his isolation. Louise, in turn, is caught up in her schoolwork and plays coy to keep from getting close. As Evan slowly starts to let down his guard, ramp up his pursuit and fall for Louise, she is interested, yet continues to keep a distance, creating a sense that something is being hidden and breeding tension.
Benson and Moorhead decided to make the script the star of the film, which is an idea that serves them well. Plot-wise, it’s a pretty basic story of a character escaping their normal life and finding love in a foreign land. What Benson does with his screenplay is inject smart ideas, humor, and vulnerability to make it a wholly unique experience. The flirtation and growth of their relationship is sweet to watch as Pucci and Hilker give life to Benson’s words with a pair of strong performances.
When the big reveal of the film comes, it is accompanied by sometimes wordy, but never condescending bits of exposition, which serve a great purpose. Rather than leaving the whole thing a mystery, Benson and Moorhead lay it all out on the table and leave it to the viewer to take the ride with them. It is also, in other ways, Benson and Moorhead’s best decision of the film. Without spoiling it, the duo decided to root their explanations in a fashion that makes the material accessible and vastly easier to connect to.
There are a few issues to be had with the construction of “Spring,” mostly in its slow start and some repetitive elements of the screenplay. It is all easily overlooked, however, by the strength of its central romance and relationship development. It is also beautifully shot on location in Italy, displaying its beautiful landscapes and enhancing it further with gorgeous aerial shots through the city and coastline. With “Spring,” Benson and Moorhead have crafted a horror film that ascends expectations and limitations for the genre. They’ve created a dialogue-driven romantic drama with plenty of substance and kissed with bits of horror that serve a narrative purpose. Benson and Moorhead are a visionary duo to watch in the future.