Spring is one of those examples of the romantic horror. Romance and horror might not seem like perfect bedfellows but they’re as old as Dracula and increasingly bring out the best of both worlds. Normally lending itself naturally to vampires there are plenty of examples of films that look to make you swoon as well as wretch. From David Cronenberg’s The Fly, the excellence that is Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession right up to last year’s creepy little number Honeymoon. Spring sits nicely amongst those films and tells a delicate little story that will make you smile and grimace at the same time.
Having recently lost both his parents Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) gets into a fight in a bar, panics and flees to Italy. While there he meets the gorgeous Louise (Nadia Hilker) who claims to be “half undiscovered science, a bunch of confusing bio-chemistry and some crazy hormones”. But after their first date Louise sneaks out and seems to undergo a physical change, one that Evan will either have to learn to embrace or consume him just as he’s beginning to fall for her.
Chocked full with stunning and unsettling imagery Spring is a slow-burner of a love story. A film that lures you in to the lives of these two alienated individuals who are able to find peace when in each other’s company. Imagine if Before Sunrise / Sunset / Midnight, complete with wondering around exotic locations while mulling over life, love and death, had a child with a Cronenberg body-horror, blood spraying sacrifices included, and you’re somewhere close to the smart genre play that is Spring.
Pucci and Hilker are both wonderful in their roles. Their chemistry bouncing off each other thanks to write and co-director Justin Benson’s natural and often telling dialogue. Pucci’s Evan is a warm yet lost character, a man unable to comprehend the journey he is on but always open to the possibility that things will get better. Hilker meanwhile is a revelation, putting in the kind of performance that has casting agents clambering over each other to get her seen for their next project. She has a confidence and natural onscreen charm that seduces both Evan and audience alike without ever coming across as anything other than real.
Co-directors Benson and Aaron Moorhead utilise the Italian locations to perfection, that sense of history imbued in every shot but always allowing nature to creep into every frame, just as both elements do with Louise’s dark little secret. Perhaps what is so surprising is that, unlike many films in this sub-genre, the horror takes a back seat, only occasionally, and fleetingly, making a cameo to remind us of what Louise really is. The rest of the time is reserved for a blossoming romance with the smallest of undercurrents hinting at something more dangerous for the couple.
Spring is an intimate and existential romance that has you falling head over heels in love with both beauty and beast.