Cynicism, nihilism and traditional 9 to 5 jobs we call careers all too often suck the mystery and sense of adventure from life. Left with bland routines, joylessness and an empty void that’s simply easier to ignore, every day becomes repetitive as we seek fulfillment in materialism while disregarding things that make life worth living. In Justin Benson’s second feature film, Spring, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci: Evil Dead remake 2013) finds himself in one such post-college rut until the untimely death of his mother puts him at a crossroad in life and turns his world upside down.
Following his mother’s funeral, Evan understandably finds himself several drinks deep with his best friend Tommy (Jeremy Gardner: The Battery 2013) at the same bar that serves as his place of employment. When an aggressive drunk looking for a fight is verbally provoked by the Tommy’s unfiltered mouth, and an altercation ensues giving Evan the opportunity to work out pent-up frustration with his fists. However, the law frowns on bar fights … as does Evan’s employer.
Finding himself immediately out of work, Evan finishes the night at his house in bed with Jackie, his girlfriend portrayed by the gorgeous Augie Duke (Bad Kids Go to Hell 2012, Burning Kentucky 2019). After Jackie silently slips away before sunrise, Evan wakes up alone and hungover as a policeman knocks on his door – a sound that goes ignored until the unwelcome visitor leaves his doorstep. Newly orphaned, unemployed, probably single and wanted by the law, a change in scenery is needed as Evan remembers Jackie’s advice to make use of his passport and live a little. So, a decision is made. As if he threw a dart at a world map, the fugitive flees to Italy on a whim where he befriends two European travelers who, much like himself, have no particular destination in mind.
Welcoming Evan with open booze-fueled arms, the trio travel Italy and share a hostel setting the stage for a torture porn horror cliché much like Eli Roth’s Hostel (2006). This all too familiar pattern becomes more ingrained when Evan crosses paths with an alluring, mysterious and stunningly beautiful woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker: The Walking Dead series). At this point, most horror fans would consider the fate of Evan and his new friends sealed. The three travelers will likely end up in some black market operation: mutilation for show, involuntary organ donors exploited by the wealthy or on the wrong end of a human centipede. Regardless of the outcome, we’ve seen this scenario time and again. However, this is far from your typical torture horror and Benson has a pleasant surprise is in store.
Just when I expected this European adventure to take a foul turn with a predictable abduction, Spring takes an entirely different approach throwing multiple genres in a blender and hitting puree. Remaining in the country illegally, Evan finds work and lodging on a farm owned by a friendly, simple and soft-spoken man named Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti: The Da Vinci Code 2006) while romantically pursuing Louise. Several outings spark intriguing philosophical conversation that, on its own, add deeper layers of substance to this unexpected love story. However, the romance quickly takes an alarming twist suggesting that Louise is not who – or what – she appears to be.
With a monstrous secret hidden from Evan, Spring takes on an obvious horror vibe as Louise allows the fling to continue while occasionally running off uttering excuses for bailing on the date. This continues for a little while as the mysterious woman indulges the young man’s European fantasy … until her need of him has expired. But cutting ties is not an option for Evan who has fallen completely head over heels. And his stubbornness leads him to truths that take the philosophical rabbit hole into science fiction territory involving biochemistry and historical mythology.
Benson’s second addition to his filmmaking endeavors has, to date, earned 5 awards and 13 nominations since it’s 2014 film festival run. And for good reason. A creature feature cleverly doubling as a heart-felt love story with some well-placed comedic moments, Spring is a uniquely beautiful and unforgettable multi-genre blend, the likes of which you’ve never seen. As an intriguingly original story emerges, a thought provoking philosophical idea is proposed: just because you’ve never seen something before and science has yet to explain it, it doesn’t it mean it’s supernatural or doesn’t exist at all. It simply means scientific understanding has yet to catch up.
The deeper meaning that really makes this a must-see gem, however, is an exploration of what truly makes life worth living. It illustrates exactly what it means to break free from traditional views of success in an embrace of the unknown while seeing significance in things we take for granted every day. Life is more than the played out work, eat, sleep, repeat routine. It’s about new experiences and taking risks while appreciating the very fact that you’re alive in this moment. It’s about living an adventure before death inevitably knocks at your door. To paraphrase Evan, we should appreciate every sunrise because we only get so many of them. And if you’re lucky enough to have someone with whom to share them? That’s all the better.