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Spring is a very unique combination of genres that blends a sweet romance with disturbing horror and science fiction elements and does it very effectively. The story finds troubled Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), who recently lost his mother and his job, fleeing to Italy to clear out his head and avoid the coming troubles from a recent bar fight. There he meets an enchanting young Italian girl named Louise (Nadia Hilker) who is a student and scientist conducting studies in evolution and genetics (pssst…never a good sign). It becomes obvious early on that there is something very different about Louise and as Evan falls deeper in love with the mysterious young woman, he has no idea how dangerous his love for her may become.
Written by Justin Benson and co-directed with Aaron Moorhead, this is a very different and sometimes very moving horror/romance. There are a number of things that make this work far better than you might expect and one is the establishing of a legitimate and very sweet love story between the displaced Evan and the beguiling Louise. If this were an indie romance, it would still have worked just fine. The filmmakers add a very disturbing twist to Louise, though, that will definitely bring chills when the side effects of her condition/true nature make themselves known. The FX portraying these effects are another reason this works so well. What we are shown ranges from the subtly chilling to outright shocking. There is also violent behavior that sometimes accompanies these changes and thus we do fear for Evan…even though we also want the two to be together…because, again, the love story aspect works so well. It’s gives the viewer some refreshingly mixed feelings. We can’t decide how we want this to work out. It makes for a very offbeat, engaging and disturbing movie. More elements in the plus column are an atmospheric soundtrack by Jimmy Laville and some lush cinematography of the Italian locations by co-director Moorehead.
Yet another factor that makes this work, is the cast. Pucci’s Evan comes across as a guy who has been hardened by some tough road walked and yet he stills seems to be a good man at heart. He’s likable and seems to have found something here in Italy that he has been looking for all his life and it’s not just Louise. As for his paramour, German actress Nadia Hilker is perfect as the beautiful, enchanting, mystery girl with a dark secret. Not only is Miss Hilker the stuff of romantic fantasy, but is dead-on in playing the emotional turmoil of a woman who has a unique and sometimes dangerous condition yet, very human desires and emotions. She’s enigmatic, frisky, feisty and sexy, yet tragically sad and definitely a touch dangerous. A huge factor that this movie works as good as it does is the perfect casting of it’s leading lady. She even handles some potentially silly dialog with a sincerity and earnestness that makes it click.
It’s not perfect. When Louise finally explains what is going on with her, it is a bit out there and tough to swallow. It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but good work by the cast and the deftness of it’s handling by the directors wins out over a potential story collapse. Also, when Evan finally finds out what is going on by walking in during one of Louise’s “instances”, he accepts her preposterous sounding explanation and comes to terms with it a little too quickly even after he witnesses something out of a nightmare. He decides to stay by her side even with that very unbelievable explanation and does so a little too easily. It far from ruins the film, but there should have been a little more evidence of torn emotions before he decides he loves her enough to deal with her as she is. Then again, in a weird way, this is a sort of fairy tale, a disturbing, reverse Beauty and The Beast, if you will, so, from that perspective we can accept it easier, as fairy tales are exactly that…even dark ones.
A very bold, unique and offbeat film from Benson and Moorehead. One that is sweet and romantic one minute and disturbing and violent the next. Skilled direction and great work by the cast make it work far better than it should and work very well at that. Add in that Nadia Hilker is absolutely crush-worthy even when in not quite human form and no matter how slimy, spiny or gory things get, we never stop rooting for Evan and Louise to make it together. A refreshingly different and very affecting horror/romance.
3 and 1/2 bunnies…don’t ask…