Thursday, August 6, 2015

Spring (2014)

Written by: Justin Benson
Directed by: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead
Lou Taylor Pucci as Evan
Nadia Hilker as Louise
Francesco Carnelluti as Angelo
Jeremy Gardner as Tommy

My freshman year of college I worked at a video store. While you could find out plenty about movies online by that point, we had yet to fully step into the age of too much information where one quick flip through your Facebook feed can ruin an entire year's worth of things you were looking forward to in just a few minutes. At that point, magazines like Fangoria and genre-specific news sites like Dread Central were still the primary source of information, which you could browse selectively and the simple act of turning on your computer did not amount to being hit in the face with a shotgun blast of spoilers, nitpickery, and whiny fan outrage (in the old days you had to have your own site to be a film critic, dagnabbit!).

In short, it was not just possible, but even still easy to be surprised by a movie. It was nothing like when we were devouring movies five or six at a time on weekends in high school and were getting our minds blown every 90 minutes over the course of a night, but it was still a steady wealth of amazement. With my line of work, I was in a perfect position to sample many different things without even the investment of a few bucks. It certainly helped that there were a lot of great movies coming out then, like Ginger Snaps, Ghost World, and Donnie Darko, plus all the fun older oddities you used to be able to find in video stores (I'm still trying to figure out the title of a European movie I rented where a woman becomes possessed by some kind of sentient octopus creature and fucks people to death in an artsy sort of way). I find that this kind of thing can still happen occasionally (I went into Europa Report cold and was completely blown away), but they're getting fewer and farther between. This is a damn shame, because discovering a new movie with no preconceived notions or even any firm ideas of what it's about beyond a one- or two-sentence summary and being drawn into a well crafted world full of surprise and discovery is, for me anyway, simply the greatest joy a film fan can experience.

A couple of times a year Deep Discount has big movie sales which I spent far too much time poring over, putting everything that looks even vaguely interesting into my cart and then playing Sophie's choice deleting things until I whittle it down to a reasonable amount of money I don't have to spend. Often times, I'll have the cart open in one tab and Netflix open in another, adding everything I don't purchase so that I can at least get around to seeing it eventually. Tonight's movie is one of those that didn't make the cut for the simple reason it was completely unknown and I just didn't have the cash to drop on something I wasn't sure about. It's also now been added to that short list of must-own essentials because I was enthralled by it from start to finish and left at the end with a mixture of feelings ranging from curiosity and fascination to joy and a dash of horror that I can't remember the last time a movie made me feel.

We're introduced to Evan as he sits at his mother's bedside while she breathes her last. The night after the funeral, he and his best friend Tommy sit drinking at the bar/restaurant where Evan works. On his way to the restroom, some doofus with a gold grill and flat-billed cap runs into Evan and pulls the old hypermasculine bullshit of blaming it on him. Evan, not wanting a confrontation on this of all days, attempts to simply apologize and get the guy to go away. Tommy starts mouthing off and is about to get smashed from behind with a beer bottle when Evan snaps and beats the shit out of this clown who persistently refuses to stop raining on an already thoroughly waterlogged parade. The universe is not finished using Evan's junk for a speed bag just yet, however. His boss fires him for inciting violence on the property, and the guy he clobbered follows him home. For now it's just threats, but clearly at some point Evan is going to wake up to a bunch of wanna-be gang bangers beating him to death with baseball bats or simply shooting up his house from the street.

Taking Tommy's advice, Evan calls an acquaintance for a sympathy lay, but after several drinks and a nearly-opened condom, she can't quite bring herself to do it. Evan passes out, and when he wakes in the morning to the police knocking on his door, he sees that she left his passport in a deliberately visible place. Watching through the blinds as the sheriff walks back to his cruiser, he decides to take everyone's advice and get out of town to go anywhere that isn't home. The travel agent he calls from the cab on the way to the airport recommends Italy, so Italy it is.

Not really having a clue where to go or what to do when he gets there, he chances to meet up with a couple of British guys roughly his age and is invited to tag along on their vacation. They get to be good friends over the course of however many days it is they spend together, but when they leave the little seaside town where the three of them had been sharing a room due to a shortage of funds, Evan decides to find work and stick around because he met a beautiful and mysterious girl.

Then things get weird.

And that's all I'm going to say about it. If you've already read about this movie elsewhere and know the rest of the story, watch it anyway because it's still a fantastic movie. If this is the first you've heard of it, I implore you to not look it up. Don't read any more about it. Buy it from the link below, rent it, get it into your hands however, but go into it completely blind and immerse yourself in the world of Evan and Louise. Spring is a sublime romantic horror fairytale, and having some wag on Rotten Tomatoes or whatever spoil the story for you would be doing a great disservice to the filmmakers, the film, and to you yourself as the audience. Setting genres aside, this is one of the best movies I've seen in recent memory period. Enjoy.


  1. "Then things get weird". You ain't kidding. I must've spent 10+ minutes trying to figure out what was going on, but all my (not inconsiderable) horror movie expertise failed me. Which the movie actually made fun of, at one point--I laughed when the guy lists off possible explanations and it was nearly identical to mine.

    The back story is fascinating, but I was kinda bored by the romance elements. That's just me, though. As always, thanks for the review!

  2. My pleasure. I'm glad you're enjoying them.

    I guess I'm a big ol' softie at heart. I thought the romance aspect of the movie was handled very well. It felt real, and the two leads have incredible chemistry together.

  3. Oh, I agree, it was well done, they clearly put a lot of thought into it. I'm just too cynical--if I were in the guy's position, I'd be trying to figure out how to profit from the whole situation...