Romance and horror are two concepts that rarely converge, at least in an elegant way. So it makes some level of hipster sense that Jake would have seen a movie that he claimed did exactly that, and subsequently would have sang its praises to the other guys, only to have his words fall on the most deaf of ears… Finally, he was able to get the group to watch this thing for a full-fledged review and discussion, and (spoiler alert) it was pretty well received. If you haven't seen Spring yet, go forth and do so prior to venturing forward in this spoiler heavy review.
Reviewed by: Jake
Spring begins with Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) losing his mother, who we discover he has been caring for since college after his dad died suddenly, foregoing any professional and personal aspirations. It's devastating and he struggles to cope, quickly losing his job at a bar after knocking the grill out of some loud-mouthed East Bay douchebag who talks some shit. He quickly makes a snap decision to buy a one way plane ticket to Europe, flying into Italy and seemingly beginning your average “young American backpacks through Europe and finds him/herself” horseshit.
After traveling for a brief period with some listless British guys, he arrives in a small, seaside village, where he meets one of the hottest Italian babes you could ever hope to see, named Louise (Nadia Hilker). Let's say things progress quickly, with the rest of the movie happening over about five days, as Evan desperately tries to win her affection while working (aka doing basically nothing) on a quaint farm outside of town.
There's a small hitch with their relationship though… Louise is a monster… A real one. You see, she may look like a smokin’ European twenty-something, but she is actually a millennia-old sack of science things that for some reason forces her to basically rebirth herself every twenty years via stem cells. Meanwhile, she periodically falls prey to other science things, as genes and pheromones cause her to randomly transform into various creatures of all shapes and sizes. The only way to break the science things spell? TRUE FUCKING LOVE, you guys. The problem is, Louise isn't really into becoming a mortal after all these years. The immortality gig is pretty sweet. So while Evan essentially tries to convince her that she should fall for him and give up eternity for his jobless American ass (he does try to sweeten the pot by promising to give up smoking!), she consistently plays it close to the vest, and claims there's no way that she's going to fall in love. Besides, that's a job for oxytocin.
Evan sticks it out, and goes through some real shit for this girl, with zero guarantee she will be able to reciprocate. In the end, Louise's transformation moment arrives, where she is supposed to rebirth into a new woman made of 50% her existing self and 50% Evan’s genes because science, but in a shocking turn of events, the moment comes and goes with her remaining as she was, indicating that oxytocin did kick in and render her mortal for her love of Evan. They may or may not live happily ever after. Science FTW.
WHAT THE MOVIE DOES RIGHT
The primary triumph of Spring is its story, and that's saying something considering this is a horror website written by horror fans with horror biases. The fact of the matter is, this is one of the most unique and refreshing stories I have seen in a long, long time. On the surface, it's a generic romance that is disrupted by a body horror storyline and some highly questionable science. But in effect, there is a synergy at work here that is unlike most other films I've seen. This is definitely aided by some incredible on-screen chemistry shared by Pucci and Hilker, as their characters are both extremely likeable and have incredible depth for a 90 minute movie. The backstory of Louise in particular is incredibly interesting. It makes the aforementioned science issues almost a moot point. In the end, it is very easy to care about both of these characters and their relationship. Call it the romance part of the movie if you want, but it is an extremely refreshing and welcome addition in a genre that, st times by design, can feature characters largely bereft of redeeming qualities or depth. I call it the sign of a good fucking movie.
The other extremely notable thing Spring has going for it is the incredibly beautiful cinematography work by co-directors (also co-writers) Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. The whole film is shot in a dreamlike haze, with a healthy amount of lingering shots and oversaturation that, though it may not be standard, contributes to the mood of the film. There are also some incredibly long takes here, with ambitious follow shots and disorienting perspectives. One of my favorite scenes in the movie involves a bewildered Evan as he trudged through the cobblestone alleys of the town, searching for a way to get some space after he walks in on Louise in full Cthulhu-squid hellbeast form. The take is extremely long and showcases both the actors and the setting, while simultaneously adding a level of disorientation that matches what Evan has to be feeling after seeing some seriously not of this world shit. Another happens when Evan first arrives in the small town and uses the same follow technique with interesting distraction elements and a healthy amount of drone use:
WHAT THE MOVIE DOES WRONG
At this point, it should be abundantly clear that I'm not going to have much to say in this section of the proceedings. It's probably also pretty obvious that if I am going to pot something here, it's the mystery science that's liberally applied throughout the film. The main issue is that it could be totally reasonable for Louise's character to, even after thousands of years, not understand one goddamned thing about why she is an immortal who randomly shapeshifts into disgusting monsters. In fact, it might be preferable to the attempt made to explain things away. The problem is, you can't just have a character talk about pheromones and oxytocin and stem cells and color them an expert when even a basic grasp of how those things actually work renders it a pretty difficult sell. There could have been a less-is-more approach to Louise’s expertise that would have been more than forgivable, but for some reason, Benson and Moorhead lean into some laughably absurd shit. It's a testament to the rest of the movie that it barely pulled me out.
Story: 8 - It doesn't get much more unique than this. The character depth and relatively emotional narrative are both a huge thumbs up. The questionable science aspects are a thumbs down.
World-Building / Immersion: 9 - Most of this is due to the incredible chemistry shared by Pucci and Hilker, who carry the film. It was so good on this front that I was almost entirely able to suspend my disbelief through the many scientific blunders. Almost.
Scare-Factor: 3.5 - The body horror is handled well and delivers a couple natural scares, but the main fear mechanism in this movie is adult. The death of family, loneliness, listlessness. It's fairly angsty, but undeniably showcases some fears we all share.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 5 - This is a tough category for me. The visual effects are mostly serviceable and there are a few instances where the practical used for Louise looks great. But for each of those, there is another instance of cg that doesn't look good. The sound is down the middle as well, so I'll just give it a five and walk away.
Overall: 8.5 - The concept of a horror romance may not be novel on its own, but the depth on display here is wholly unique in my experience. This is a genre bender, and in the current climate, some shitheads would call this “post-horror”, but I challenge you to find a better example of these two genres colliding than this. Prove me wrong kids. Prove me wrong.