“Look man, you need to change up your environment, you have a lot of shit going on, your whole family is dead, and I think the best thing would be to shift gears and do something different with yourself.”
Eat, Pray, Lovecraft.
The trailer for Spring adheres to horror trailer cliches, for the most part – idyllic life, peaceful, even banal scenarios, and then, of course, flickering images, people screaming without sound, shocked faces, ominous lines; I went into Spring expecting a visually rich but overly familiar film. The poster reinforced this, with its crimson and gold filtered seascape and looming mountain; a woman is undergoing a transformation – or maybe it’s not a woman at all, but a monster that only resembles a woman? Still, I have no issue with genre that follows convention, as long as it’s well made and it entertains.
The opening was my first clue that I would not be getting what I had expected. Horror films by their very nature are about death, but rarely do they show it in such intimate, emotionally rich ways like Spring does. Shortly after his mother dies, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), bartender, restless soul, single, finds himself jobless. His drunken friend Tommy (played by Battery’s hilarious Jeremy Gardner) advises him to find a sympathy screw, which he initially rejects, then pursues – sex and death permeates Spring. When Evan wakes up, alone, unmoored from responsibility and family, he decides, on a whim, to take up the trip promised to him by his dad before his death and go to Italy. After a few adventures with two Brit lads met at a hostel, Evan meets the beautiful Louise (Nadia Hilker) and begins a whirlwind relationship with her.
Meandering and dreamlike, Spring is enlightenment travel romance by way of Lovecraft. The Europe here is one of deep time, an overwhelming history, in stark contrast to Evan’s America in the new world. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror manifests as the meaninglessness of existence, but Spring suggests that even if there’s no point to anything, life can be pretty awesome if you let it and you don’t allow the inevitable lows to outweigh the joy.
This is a funny, touching, heartfelt, and insightful film that wants to wrap you in a tentacle-armed hug and tell you that everything is going to be okay. So yeah: not really a horror, and certainly not what I had expected. Writer Justin Benson cleverly uses horror to talk about relationships and commitment in clever ways – Spring certainly has a unique take on baby crazy, for example As outlandish the film gets, accepting someone for who they are, even at their worst, and having to just jump into love head first are universal. Even if they’re taking place in Innsmouth.
Benson and co-director Aaron Moorhead (who also handled the cinematography) give us some gorgeous, gauzy shots of Italy – there’s a particularly stunning scene of atavism involving cave painting in blood and a sacrifice, and Mount Vesuvius menaces the background of many scenes as a literal manifestation of death – and that ethereal quality extends to the twinkling, emotionally driven electronic score. All the actors are excellent, and the two leads give believable and nuanced performances. Nadia Hilker is truly fantastic here.
Spring wasn’t what I expected, but that’s okay. I loved it for what it was anyway, which for Spring, I think, is exactly right.