Spring

Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (2015)

A young American suffers the holiday romance from hell in this seductive supernatural shocker.

Having lost his mother and his job and finding himself wanted by the police, Californian cook Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) high-tails to Italy to sort his head out.

Having hooked up with foul-mouthed Brits Tom and Sam (Nick Nevern, Jonathan Silvestri) Evan accompanies them on a road trip to the beautiful port of Bari.

Once there Evan is picked up in a bar by a raven-haired beauty in a startling red dress. She says she’s called Louise (Nadia Hilker).

She’s a forthright and well-travelled genealogy student who has a secret skin-care regime and may be lying about her age. Louise is also averse to having her photograph taken and says she tries to be vegetarian.

Evan is smitten and as his Brit friends disappear to Amsterdam, he takes a labouring job on a farm in order to stay close to the enigmatic Louise.

His boss is taciturn widower Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti) whose melancholic devotion to his crops adds depth to the slowly gestating romantic tone.

Evan tries to woo Louise with dinner dates, boat trips and museum visits. Together they’re charming and funny and we want them break through the emotional barriers keeping them apart.

Unknown to Evan, Louise suffers a condition and it’s getting worse. Macabre tones twist up through the romance as maggots, insects and snakes begin to intrude.

For reasons which become horribly clear, Louise enjoys unprotected sex and there are discarded needles on her bathroom floor.

We appreciate the danger Evan is in long before he does and the fate of their relationship is dependent on the arrival of the imminent spring equinox.

Inventive, intriguing and gently hallucinogenic, Spring benefits from deliciously visceral physical effects, a confident and precisely constructed script and two likeable leads who share an engaging chemistry.

Their deadpan banter is cut from a similar vein to the horror classic An American Werewolf In London (1981) – but also sweet and tart like the fruit of Angelo’s grove.

Co-director Benson wrote the script and his partner Moorhead acted as cinematographer. Both are in healthy command of their respective disciplines and combine to create a film substantially more than the sum of its low budget parts.

Moorhead’s camerawork is fluid and controls the rhythms of the story, contributing to the sly and slightly trippy tone. He makes the old town quarter of Bari look fabulous, as much a character as Vienna was in Don’t Look Now (1973).

The romantic touchstones would be Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and of course F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1927).

With it’s expertly mixed combination of horror, comedy and romance, Spring is a smart, enjoyable and accomplished addition to the cinema of 2015.

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