REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media
Sometimes, a horror film involves a married couple or a group of adolescents, which includes boyfriend-girlfriend duos. However, it is rare to find a full-fledged romance blossom in the context of a horror film. “Spring” adroitly blends elements of the two disparate genres.
Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is a twenty-something Californian, whose life is falling apart. After his father dies, he had dropped out of college to tend to his bedridden mother. She dies, leaving Evan without any living family.
Following the funeral, Evan is in the dive bar, where he works. His best buddy is commiserating with him. Some inebriated jerk bumps into Evan and starts talking smack. Evan tries to defuse the situation. However, the barfly picks up a beer bottle and is about to use it as a weapon. Before he can, Evan knocks him out cold. The police are called, but Evan slips out the back door before they arrive. Evan receives the news that he has been fired from his job in the bar.
Evan plays the sympathy card to convince a local gal to come over for a tryst. However, before he can consummate the deed, the woman demands that he don a condom. Guess what Evan doesn’t have! This guy just can’t catch a break.
By the way, the elusive condom provides a dramatic portent of a key plot development. This foreshadowing and the narrative fluidity of these early vignettes reflect the surprising craftsmanship exhibited by the filmmakers.
Evan learns that following the barroom brawl, the police are trying to track him down on assault charges. There is no family, no job, and no girlfriend to tie him down. So, with the police on his trail, Evan decides that this might be an opportune time to skip Dodge. Fortuitously, Evan has a current passport, which he had obtained for a family trip, which never came to fruition. Now, it comes in handy as Evan uses his recent inheritance from his mother to buy a plane ticket to Italy.
Evan ends up in a small coastal village in sunny Italy. When Evan sees a striking young woman (Nadia Hilker) sitting on a local piazza, he is thunderstruck by her pulchritude. However, Evan is so taken aback, he flubs the opportunity to approach her.
Later that day, Evan sees the woman again in a bar. The coincidence emboldens him to approach her. Evan strikes up a conversation with this woman. Without the benefit of introductions, she matter of factly expresses her willingness to go home with him.
Evan is flabbergasted that such a gorgeous stranger has made herself sexually available to him. He wonders aloud whether she is a prostitute or part of a sting operation to rob him. When Evan suggests a counterproposal of going out on an actual date, the woman rebuffs his overture. It looks like Evan has talked himself out of enjoyable assignation.
However, the next day, Evan sees the woman again. Finally, he learns that the woman’s name is Louise and she is a graduate student in evolutionary biology. Despite their early failure to connect, there seems to be an obvious connection between the two. Where will it lead? Unless you are extraordinarily prescient, you will be surprised by some of the novel plot twists.
Taylor conveys the earnestness of his footloose and emotionally vulnerable character. Hilker is stunning aesthetically and has impressive screen presence. The badinage between them proves engaging.
Working off his original screenplay, Justin Benson pairs up with Aaron Moorehead to direct this imaginative film. The two previously made the micro-budgeted “Resolution.” That film was brought to fruition by using a virtually one-location setting. “Spring” benefitted from its slightly larger, albeit still modest, budget. It enabled the filmmakers to provide some excellent practical effects as well as stunning shots of Italian villas, volcanoes, ancient ruins, and seaside cliffs. The filmmakers include a parenthetical subplot about an elderly Italian widower (Francesco Carnelutti), who provides free lodging to Evan in exchange for labor on the former’s fruit orchard. This results in a nice synergy with the principal storyline. The film is infused with a strong sense of limerance.
If you want to see a rare example of a well-executed horror romance, with a certain undeniable sweetness, “Spring” is a film for you.
*** No MPAA rating 109 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.