After a month of crazy work-life imbalance, I’m finally posting my review of Spring, a brand new horror movie from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. These guys are no strangers to the horror genre—Benson and Moorehead worked together on the 2012 horror movie Resolution. Benson also directed and wrote the “Bonestorm” segment of V/H/S: Viral. Spring, the most recent project from these up-and-comers, is available on certain online platforms.
I was excited to watch, hopeful that it would be another well-constructed, thoughtful horror movie. It did not disappoint.
Before I get into the spoiler-y part of my review, let’s talk about the plot. Evan, a young man without much direction or ambition, decides to leave behind the life he has in San Diego and escape to Italy. Once there, he meets a beautiful and mysterious young woman, Louise, who is not what she seems. Her secret threatens to rip apart their tender romance.
Now, this sounds like a very cliché set-up, and I agree. But take my word for it that this film was one of the more unique horror movies I’ve seen in some time. I went in with absolutely no expectations other than a very basic outline, much like the one I just wrote. However, I came out having experienced a touching love story about two scared, self-doubting individuals. The film is visually striking and the filmmakers take full advantage of the exquisite scenery. The actors had good chemistry with each other. I believed their performances. The premise was very imaginative and I appreciated the direction of the narrative, but honestly, the reveal of Louise’s secret was not executed in the best way. The last act was clunky to the point where the it compromised the dreamy, creepy tone accomplished by the first two acts. Some things are better left without a hastily conveyed explanation that overwhelms the audience with too many details, you know? (And while I can understand why that choice was made, I don’t think it was the right one.)
Despite that, the film reminded me very much of Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater’s iconic film, one of my personal favorites. I’m certainly not the first person to notice the similarities. So yeah, this movie was like Before Sunrise meeting an old-school, David-Cronenberg-style body horror movie and they had a beautiful and creepy baby. Which is something I didn’t even know I wanted.
That being said, I didn’t really think this movie was all that scary. There were moments where I steeled myself during tense scenes, and there was one part where I gasped aloud, but I didn’t feel scared. This isn’t hardcore horror, not by any stretch.
But that’s not the point, and the movie never aimed for that.
What I loved about the movie was how *spoilers* the film functioned on two levels.
On the surface, Spring is about a normal man who meets an immortal woman. Louise has lived for over two thousand years. Every few decades she seeks out a man to impregnate her. With this raw genetic material, her body uses the steam cells to regenerate, independent of any choice she might exercise. She becomes a new version of herself. And her transformations are messy, twisted, and dangerous to those around her.
Because of the danger, she isolates herself and finds that she is lonely, in much the same way that Evan is. But she refuses to seek out any meaningful companionship. That is, until Evan finds out her secret and convinces her that he loves her in spite of what she is.
On a deeper level, the film speaks to commitment issues, how a romantic relationship can encompass death and life, mortality and immortality. Evan has his own emotional baggage, but Louise has thousands of years of loneliness weighing on her. To Louise, Evan is a chain threatening to anchor her in place, which is the last thing she needs to survive. For Evan, Louise represents committing to something he is drawn to but doesn’t understand, something beautiful yet raw and primordial. Challenging. Frightening. They are both scared of getting too close to another.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie encapsulate the inherent fear of relationships in such an original way. I appreciated the central message that a romance can be an acknowledgment of death and mortality while doubling as a triumph of life and immortality. At the end, Evan and Louise will die someday, but their child will live on, and presumably procreate with another, and in this way Evan and Louise will be immortal together, their genetic codes intertwined.
Some poor narrative choices aside, I really liked this movie and couldn’t stop thinking about it weeks later. I recommend, if only for the conversation potential.