Thursday 20 September 2018


The Shapeshift Of
Springs To Come

USA 2014
Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Metrodome Region 2

Slight warning-ish: Okay, there will be a very minor spoiler in here but it’s nothing that the directors don’t make implicit fairly on in the movie and also a main feature of the trailer so... if you’ve already seen the trailer you don’t need to worry too much about this review.

Spring is the second of three feature films from writers/directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and was made by them between Resolution (reviewed here) and their recent sequel to that film, The Endless (reviewed by me here). I was kind of on the fence about those two movies, to be fair but the trailer to this one looked much more engaging so I bought a cheap DVD copy of it and, well, now I wish I’d imported a Blu Ray of the thing from overseas because a) it looks fantastic and b) it's easily, for this audience member, the superior film and something of a minor masterpiece.

The film starts off with some brief, scene setting stuff in America with main protagonist Evan (played really nicely by Lou Taylor Pucci) looking after his mother and watching her die in bed in front of him. It’s a touching moment but the next scene, at a kind of wake after her funeral in a bar, something happens... the consequences of which are that Evan decides to get out of America for a bit. He ends up going to Italy and, for a while, he hooks up with a couple of British ‘townies’ who are almost half charming with their typical combination of football crowd thuggery and witty banter but after they leave for Amsterdam, Evan decides to stay around in Italy for a bit, getting a ‘work for room’ arrangement at a local farm. Some of that decision is based on the interest of an absolutely gorgeous looking woman called Louise (played by the astonishingly striking Nadia Hilker) who seems to take a shine to him.

Of course, as their relationship continues... well... the audience is let into the secret that there’s something not quite right with Louise. There’s something very ancient about her but what is it exactly? Vampirism? Werewolvery? Serpent lady? Well, there are times that you might think all three and each time you try and get a handle on things you are presented with something different. However, the explanation as to what is going on, as you will hear from Louise herself, is a fusion between science fiction and fantasy concepts with little hints of the horror film, all injected into what is essentially a romantic, boy meets girl kinda movie. And it really works at pretty much everything it does. The subtle holding back and tease of the main premise is timed just right and the way this is filmed, with long swooping camera drone shots of Italy used to punctuate the segues between scenes in certain areas, make this a work with more than one kind of eye candy to it.

It’s a beautiful looking film but, as well as that, it’s a great performance piece by the two central leads and it never really veers into ‘too intense to spoil the atmosphere’ territory. Indeed, there’s also a lot of humour and in one specific scene set in church towards the end of the film, the suspense is quite fraught. It’s also, however, a scene laced with laugh out loud humour and the way the directors/performers manage to hold both emotional states for a few minutes is quite special.

Another thing I would take my hat off to the directors for is a shot near the end where we’re looking up at Evan and a plane and its trail as it appears to go through the middle of his head in the background. I wonder how they managed to time that so precisely and whether this was a serendipitous occurrence or whether it was planned out and they somehow knew the flight paths.

The best thing about this movie, though, is the ending. Things are at their romantic best but, without giving anything away, the final shot of the movie, where the camera zooms into Evan’s face before zooming back out to return to the master shot, is absolutely brilliant and things in the tale could go either way at this point. It’s also fairly subtle as it relies purely on sound design and then a pull back into that master to tell the final piece of the narrative... the unconscious biological choice the audience has, by this point, been primed to anticipate. Now, there is another way this could have also ended beautifully utilising the same footage in a different way... by not employing certain sound effects and not zooming back out to the master... but the slightly less ambiguous ending the directors have gone for here works an absolute treat and, honestly, you’ll have to wait until the last few seconds of the movie to find out if you get the fairy tale ending you’ve probably been hoping for... Spring is pretty much an adult fairy tale, to be sure... or whether this is going to be a darker revelation. And I’m certainly not going to spoil anything here.

What I will say is that this is a truly great and, seemingly, hidden gem which deserves much more attention than I’ve seen it getting. I absolutely adored Spring and think more people need to know about it. It’s entirely different, thematically, from the other two films these people have made and if there are Lovecraftian undertones to the story in some respect, they’re altogether different from the hard Cthulhu sympathies of Resolution and The Endless. So there you have it. Spring is an absolutely brilliant movie for lovers of horror but, primarily I think, just lovers in general. I hope these two directors do more of this the next time around because, honestly, the world needs more of these kinds of pieces of art in it. Definitely pick this one up while it’s still around.

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