Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
by Jericho Cerrona
It has become a fashionable thing recently for filmmakers to cross multiple genres in an attempt at deconstructing, or at the very least, providing unexpected wrinkles inside a context we've all seen before. This methodology is especially prevalent within horror genre; partly because the films are financially feasible to produce at a rapid clip, and also because there's a veritable fanbase hungry for clever twists on their favorite tropes. To call co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's Spring a pure horror vehicle would be misleading, but there's certainly a sense in which they are stirring the genre pot by adding supernatural elements and pseudo H.P. Lovecraft macabre fantasy into the framework of a tourist love story. While this makes for a film that's intriguing in theory, it becomes clear by the third act that the non-romance elements aren't even that integral to the thematic thrust of the picture. In other words, the supernatural stuff is just an excuse for Benson and Moorhead to purportedly subvert conventions without ever giving us a good enough reason for their existence in the first place.
Spring stars Lou Taylor Pucci as Evan, a lost soul who, after the death of his mother and getting fired from his job because of a bar scuffle, takes off on a flight to Italy. Though this seems to be the beginning of a familiar "I need to get my shit together" tale of a young man reeling from tragedy, Benson and Moorhead don't make Evan a complete wreck. Through Pucci's superb performance, we come to both care for and admire Evan, even as he seems literally and metaphorically adrift, doing that thing many privileged white people often do in order to get their priorities in order; which is to backpack across Europe while living off the fat of the land. To that last point, Evan does eventually land a job, but that comes after he takes a rather long and pointless road trip with some douche bag Brits who seem interested only in getting wasted and bagging unattainable Italian women. The narrative shifts into focus (too late, to be honest) when Evan meets the mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker), a multiple language-speaking free spirit who seems willing to go to bed with him right out of the gate. Whether or not it's love at first sight or something more primal is debatable, but its easy to understand why Evan would fall for Louise. Not only is she physically beautiful, but she also has a sharp tongue and enigmatic presence that wandering men falling for fetching women in movies often do. Of course, there is something strange afoot as well; visualized by flowers blooming at odd times, slugs piling up at doorsteps, and bizarre body horror-type hijinks that effectively render Evan and Louise's budding romance complicated, to say the least.
For a while, Spring works as an impressionistic love story about two people getting to know each other under the gleam of beautiful locales. There's an organic chemistry between Pucci and Hilker that sustains interest, even as the film eventually descends into utter ludicrousness. During its best moments, Spring conjures a kind of Richard Linklater Before Sunrise walk-and-talk vibe, charting the awkward baby steps of two individuals with very different goals, but whom both feel a certain connection. Had the filmmakers trusted their material more and not given into base level Sci-Fi channel shenanigans by the final reel, the film may have been a potent allegory for the fear of intimacy. Instead, the shock and scare tactics come at frenetic pace once it becomes increasingly difficult for Louise to hide her bizarre secret, and thats where the movie ultimately falls apart. Rather than heighten or serve as a metaphor for the character's inner psyche, the horror elements simply take things into the realm of extreme silliness that renders whatever genuine connection we may have had to Evan and Louise irrelevant.
Additionally, even though Pucci and Hilker give sincere and believable performances, there's something reductive about the idea of a getaway summer fling turning into an unbreakable love that will last forever. Though the filmmakers attempt to subvert this notion somewhat by racketing up the fantasy/supernatural elements and quirky comedy, in the end the movie goes exactly where you expect it to. Basically, Spring is about how some love stories never die, even in the face of tentacle-waving and gross skin-peeling.