This is a transcript of Darrell’s introduction to the film Spring, currently playing at QUAD tickets here.
At our recent Fantastiq weekend as part of Derby Film Festival, we premiered several exciting new titles. None more exciting, perhaps, than SPRING, which proved one of the hits of the entire event, so much so that we’ve brought it straight back for another screening.
if you didn’t catch SPRING at the festival and are experiencing the movie for the first time tonight, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. Half an hour into the story, you could well find yourself scratching your head and wondering whether we’ve put the right film on. Don’t worry. Your horror antenna will be twitching before too long, but the truly remarkable way in which this tale unfolds is one I’d like to see used more often.
Past classics, from 1942’s CAT PEOPLE to 1996’s FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, have set themselves up with dramatic background detail and characterisations far removed from the conventions of the fright film, making the eventual unleashing of their monsters much more effective than usual. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is perhaps still the king when it comes to this approach. Take the werewolves and the demons and the superstitions out of that one and you’ve still got a bunch of genuinely likeable characters, with whom you’d happily spend ninety minutes watching them goof around, talk about pop culture, enjoy a walking holiday and (for one of the pair at least) strike up a romance.
One reason why horror movies have rarely been taken seriously by critics is that they stage their action in some spooky netherworld rather than anything relating to reality – up until CAT PEOPLE, most shockers took place in gloomy castles and in olde worlde time settings, but even stuff like FRIDAY THE 13TH and HOSTEL removes their contemporary casts from recognisable locales into a confined realm where the monsters live. It’s so, so rare to find a horror film which takes the time to establish a mundane, everyday mise en scene and then have it upset by the invasion of fantastic elements – you’d think this ought to be central to the way that horror movies work, yet it simply doesn’t seem to happen that way.
PSYCHO of course spends its early scenes building up a suspense-filled crime scenario in which a secretary steals $40,000 from her boss, but the boogey-boogey stuff soon takes precedence. Where SPRING succeeds is in creating not one but at least three non-genre situations for its central figure, driving him away from his home town, hooking him up with a pair of pisshead cockneys, meeting a pretty Italian girl; and – once this does turn towards Fright Club territory – maintaining believability in the way he responds to the weird sights and events he begins to experience.
Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have managed to maintain independence and control over their projects, which is why their horror movies don’t look or feel too much like anyone else’s around at the moment. Their debut, RESOLUTION, was shot in 2012 and is a drama about a guy who tries extreme measures to help a junkie friend go cold turkey, by tying him up in a remote cabin. Events take strange, unexpected turns in a movie described recently by Fangoria magazine as being a “disquieting, perception-altering chiller”. RESOLUTION proved to be a hit at the Tribeca Film Festival, went on to pick up a cult following, currently holds a 100% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review website, and led to its directors being offered a segment of the most recent movies in the ongoing V/H/S series. Their piece for the film V/H/S VIRAL was entitled ‘Bonestorm’, and has a bunch of stunt skateboarders tackling a sect of cloaked occultists in Tijuana after one of them accidentally drips blood on to a pentagram! We’ve all been there…
SPRING furthers Benson and Moorhead’s ability to mash horror into already way out-there dramatic situations, and again I’ll quote from Fangoria who said of tonight’s film “it entwines the profane and the profound, the irreverent and the serious, the iconoclastic and the sacred into a kind of Richard Linklater-meets-David Cronenberg tapestry”. If you liked last year’s bizarre tale of an alien man-hunter loose in Glasgow, UNDER THE SKIN, you’ll find a similar arthouse sensibility at work on offbeat horror material here.
I’m only sorry that I can’t go into major detail about the plotline of SPRING, but as you’ll soon find out for yourselves, this is one of those movies best approached cold. We horror fans ought to celebrate and embrace this type of material more than we do – after all, you pay you seven or eight quid to gain entry, get an intelligently written and smartly-acted piece of classic indie cinema, and then to top it all it turns towards our usual territory! Hot on the heels of IT FOLLOWS and A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, SPRING is further proof that the horror film outside of the mainstream is attracting some real talent who wish to play around with conventional form and cliche.
Directors Benson and Moorhead are planning to follow SPRING up with a movie about the legendary British occult practitioner Aleister Crowley. Simon Callow of course starred as a university professor taken over by the spirit of Crowley in the inventive and scabrous 2008 British film CHEMICAL WEDDING, penned by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, and that will be a tough act to follow.
If the SPRING guys can cast the right actor as Crowley, and if they continue to bring to the table their ability to cross monster movie traits with the everyday while spinning the whole jumble off-kilter, we could be in for a treat with that future project. For tonight, however, enjoy SPRING.