Fantastic Fest Review: SPRING Moves As Much, If Not More, Than It Scares

Brian loves this follow up from the team that brought you RESOLUTION.

Nothing scares me more than the prospect of seeing the sophomore film from a filmmaker (or filmmaker team) whose first film was something I championed. After seeing Resolution at a festival in 2012 I sung its praises over and over, even getting to moderate the Q&A for another festival showing further down the road, and once it hit Netflix it joined Absentia as a movie I often suggest whenever someone asks "Recommend a new horror movie! Something I haven't seen!". Since it's their first film, there's nothing else to go by, so by proxy I'm also telling folks these filmmakers are ones to keep an eye on. I'd be personally disappointed if their followup failed to deliver. Luckily, Spring is just as good as Resolution, and in some ways even better - so I think it's safe to say they're the real deal.

By "they" I refer to Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who share directing and producing credit, but as with Resolution only Benson is credited with the film's screenplay. It used to be pretty rare to see co-directors, but it's becoming kind of common for genre films: we have these two, the Livide/Inside team of Bustillo and Maury, the many unfortunate "Brothers" monikers for filmmaking teams where the two men are not brothers (the Butcher Brothers, the Vicious Brothers....), plus of course the Soska twins (actual twins) who are about to debut their third film next month. I assume in many cases one works more with the actors while the other handles the more technical issues, but however they split their duties it's certainly producing some of the more unique films to hit the genre as of late.

I bring it up because this feels like a very personal story; the cast is limited and usually only focusing on two primary characters (The Battery's Jeremy Gardner is third billed for a role that is finished by the movie's ten minute mark), and the plot is basically about two people falling in love. Our hero Evan, played by Lou Taylor Pucci (who has never been more likable) has just been fired from his job and lost his mother, and thus books an impromptu trip to Europe to escape it all. Not long after arriving he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), who propositions him for a one-night stand - however Evan wants a more traditional date first, something she is opposed to. Since this is a horror movie you can be assured that she isn't merely a commitment-phobe, but her nature and the reason she doesn't want to get too close to Evan is something far more original and fascinating than what your original theory will probably be.

As with fellow Fantastic Fest-er Darkness By Day, the film isn't in any rush to explain what kind of horror movie it is (or even telling you that it IS one at all; Darkness at least FELT like a horror movie early on, whereas this never does), instead letting you invest yourself in its protagonist and the world around them before springing the sort of imagery you'd expect to see in Fangoria. UNLIKE Darkness by Day this is a long film (110 minutes), but Benson's script gives us enough teases in its first hour to confirm its genre, before taking the story in an unexpected and rather moving direction. Without spoiling Louise's nature, there's a gray area to her situation that realistically keeps Evan by her side, and eventually the minor characters become even more elusive, to the point where the film feels like a riff on one of the Before Sunrise movies - it's just the two of them wandering around picturesque European locales, chatting and enjoying each others' presence while they can.

What really impressed me is that it never felt like a movie that was creeping up on 2 hours long. Pucci's various setbacks in the first act keep us invested, and make it easy to enjoy seeing his mood improve when things start to turn around upon his arrival in Italy (he makes fast friends with a pair of British guys that provide much comic relief). And then once he gets closer to Louise and Benson's script starts doling out clues as to what is wrong with her, we're excited to get to the next reveal. Usually when a movie runs this long I start to feel it, but when I had to pause my screener for something I was amazed to discover that there was only about 25 minutes left (I figured I was around the halfway point). No, scanning back reveals that the film's highlight was just past its runtime center, a hilariously deadpan reaction from Pucci after he finds out what Louise is, followed by an incredibly impressive long take (reverse tracking!) where the two argue as they walk through the streets of the city. It must have been a bitch to pull off even if the two were silent the entire time, but that the dialogue within contains some important plot points and a turning point for their relationship (so, stuff that would be compelling if the camera was locked on to the two of them sitting at a table) makes it the kind of thing that makes the movie worth seeing even if the rest of it sucked.

Thankfully, that isn't the case; said sequence is merely one highlight in film full of them. From the hilarious (and all to brief) turn from Gardner as Evan's best friend from home, to the impressive FX that showcase Louise's particular affliction, and up to the wonderful, touching conclusion, this one is a winner all the way through. Sophomore slump? Spring is the complete opposite of that.

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