Spring (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, 2015)

Belying the amateurish nonsense littering their segment in last year’s V/H/S: Viral, collaborators Benson and Moorhead forgo GoPro-laden shenanigans in favor of a genuinely contemplative horror-romance. Following the death of his mother, grief-stricken Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) loses his job following an altercation with a bar patron. Fearing a subsequent brush-in with the law, Evan seeks asylum in Italy to lay low, regroup and imbibe. After backpacking with a pair of wily British gents, a striking, moreover enigmatic beauty piques Evan’s interest, of whom harbors a dark biological secret that threatens to upend the couple’s involvement with one another.

I’m no hater when it comes to the slow burn, if and only if the corresponding payoff is worth the price of admission. Spring – while admirably unique in scope – employs said attribute in a way that only partially compliments the payoff. Conceptually and thematically, the film remains steadfast in intention if banal as it navigates the choppy waters of Evan’s post-traumatic misery. Without a job, family or sense of assurance regarding the incident that drove him to action, the first act primarily functions as gratuitous and sometimes needless exposition.

Evan’s love interest Louise (Nadia Hilker) is responsible for any and all conflict going forward as the former persists in courting the latter. Although successful, things occur unbeknownst to Evan that toy with both his and our perception of exactly what Louise is and is experiencing as a genre element. Instead of embracing the out-and-out jarring twist characteristic of similarly plodding efforts, Benson and Moorhead opt for a “What if?” scenario that employs the angle it does in an agreeably offbeat manner, the problem from here on residing within our understanding of Louise’s abrupt and convoluted revealing of her existential woe(s).

To be frank, Spring is an ambitious but misleading mishmash of hit-or-miss ideas. It isn’t a straightforward genre effort, nor is it even particularly exciting in an unconventional sense – it’s just laudably distinct. Banal by way of presentation, plotting and the like, the narrative at least remains intent on fleshing out the ideas it proposes following “the big reveal” in an unfamiliar context. Although frustrating, it’d be hard not to at least recommend Spring on the basis of the obvious chances it develops into merits when comparing it to the laziness plaguing the genre it partially subscribes to.

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