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Directed by: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti
Rated: NR (Suggested R for Disturbing Images, Some Sexuality/Nudity and Language)
Running Time: 1 h 49 m
TMM Score: 4 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Writing, Cinematography, Story, Some Effects
WEAKNESSES: Some Acting, Some Effects
After Evan looses his Mom and his job in the same week, he heads to Italy, where he meets Louise, a seemingly perfect girl. But underneath her skin, Louise hides a secret.
Benson and Moorhead are the directors behind Resolution and The Endless, two recent low-budget independent films that I cannot recommend highly enough. I’ve watched all three of their collaborations within a few days, and all three have been movies I could see myself returning to multiple times. Their combined voice crafts something new and unique; they’ve got ideas and they know how to use them, and even in this story, something that I would consider akin to a good version of Twilight, they show incredible ingenuity in both storytelling and special effects, but beyond that, they also raise important metaphysical and philosophical questions. It’s their ability to take even a plot like this, a rather straightforward romance with a slight monster twist, and elevate to something that is undeniably art; it’s moving and beautiful.
"I'm not a sociopath, okay? I've just had bad luck."
In George Saunder’s 2017 experimental novel “Lincoln in the Bardo,” he describes love like this:
Two puffs temporarinesses developed feelings for one another. Two puffs of smoke became mutually fond.
During my viewing of Spring, my mind kept running back to that one quote. This is a love story that focuses on the temporariness of life, the finite things, the things that wont last, that slip away with time. It’s a story about a man falling in love with a creature, and that creature not knowing if she wants to fall in love with him. It’s a story that, just based on the plot, could be compared to Twilight or any other monster-man love story. But while Twilight concerns whiney teenage girls getting upset over angst-ridden teenage boys, this story is about adults at the brink of a turning point in both their lives.
The film starts when Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci, Evil Dead (2013)) looses his mom, and then shortly after, his job. On a whim, he decides to go to Italy to clear his head. He runs into a few guys that show him some bars and sights around town, but when he runs into Louise (Nadia Hilker, Allegiant), a beautiful Italian woman with a strange attitude, he can’t help but ask her out. After persisting, Louise finally says she’ll go out with Evan, but as days go by, it becomes more apparent that Louise is hiding a secret.
The film makes no real effort to hide the fact that Louise is a monster, so I feel no real need to throw a spoiler tag up for that little reveal. The kind of monster Louise exists as is questionable, it seems to be a creature of Benson and Moorhead’s own devising, and honestly it works rather well as far as effects go. Some of the effects look a lot like 80s Cronenberg body horror stuff. There are lots of articulated tentacles and weird limbs, Louise’s face peels away and reveals what’s underneath, she sheds whole layers of skin. Many of the effects are practical, but they use CGI to enhance them slightly. The effects look creepy and stylish and weird, and it’s really great. Especially for a guy like me, who wouldn’t typically go out of his way to see a straight romance film, but if there’s a twist, I’ll give it a shot. The effects and underlying weirdness to the storyline kept me invested in both their relationship and the overall film itself. It gives the whole movie a sense of foreboding, and we don’t really ever know if the film will end in the two of them getting together or Louise accidentally killing Evan in one of her fits.
The writing in this movie is really fantastic, as it was in their other films as well (Benson wrote this film by himself, but Moorhead and he directed together). This film in particular reminded me a lot of Linklater’s Before Trilogy. Both this film and that trilogy are essentially just a string of conversations between the two characters about the nature of love, the passage of time, aging (Yes, I know there’s more to the Before Trilogy; there’s three movies after all, but themes are similar). Evan’s banter with his friends before he leaves feels genuine and real, and then when he meets Louise, his dialogue never seems overly corny. I think that’s what I liked best about this movie; though we’ve watched limbs sprout and skin peel from Louise, the budding love between them is believable, and what’s more, we understand why they want to be together. In Twilight (Yes, I’m going back to the Twilight comparison), Edward is a creepy dude who stands in Bella’s window at night to watch her sleep. In this film, Louise tries to protect Evan from who she is, as a real monster would probably do if they cared about someone. To me, this monster love story shows more knowledge of what reciprocated love is, vs showing a stalker who eventually wins over the person he’s stalking.
This is an awesome movie. I really didn’t know what to expect when I went into it, because I’d gone in blind based on the strength of The Endless and Resolution. I was not expecting a love story from the two that made those other films, but they pulled it off. Benson and Moorhead not only have something to say (and something worth listening to), but they also have an incredible amount of range. I’ll be sure to watch anything else that comes from this team, as I’ve been consistently impressed with their work. See this film, see their other films, and watch for films from them in the future.
End Note: This film is still set in the same universe as The Endless and Resolution, but the connection is very tenuous in this film. In all three films however, there exists a character named er… ‘Sh-tty Carl.’
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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