Fantastic Fest 2014: ‘Spring’ Pushes the Boundaries of Genre Filmmaking
Fantastic Fest is a film festival like no other -- it’s rowdy and teeming with avid fans of genre films, all determined to see as many films as they can over the course of an intense seven days. Your typical film festival usually places the more provocative genre films in the midnight slot, but Fantastic Fest is nothing but genre from the time you wake up to the time you stumble back to wherever it is you’re staying for the week. These films are proving that genre doesn’t need to be singular or defined by one word (horror, action, sci-fi), and as such, they’re surprising and totally unique. The less you know about a film at this fest before going in, the better, and the more likely you are to discover something truly great.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, the team behind the dynamic indie thriller ‘Resolution,’ are two filmmakers who are challenging and redefining the limitations of what “genre” is and can be. With their latest film, ‘Spring,’ the pair have once again crafted an incredibly surprising film that weaves elements of science fiction, horror, drama, and, in a startling turn, romance. ‘Spring’ is a more visually mature film, with remarkable yet restrained effects work, and gorgeously eerie trappings of mythology -- the kind of stuff that’s inherently intoxicating, but carry their own sort of romantic notions. It’s difficult to create something that’s both horrifying yet beautiful, but Benson and Moorehead do just that.
Of course it helps that the leads are engaging: Lou Taylor Pucci plays Evan, a nice but aimless 20-something whose mother and father have tragically died. When he goes to Italy, he falls for the mysterious Louise, played by Nadia Hilker. ‘Spring’ examines relationship dynamics: the insecurity of not knowing whether someone will be able to handle the worst of us, the desire to protect someone we care about from ourselves, and whether love is a conscious decision or a chemical reaction in our brain. How often do you walk out of a horror film contemplating relationships and love and gender dynamics that don’t involve a woman being the last person to survive a psychopath with mommy issues in a creepy mask?
What we need now in genre films are more voices and visions like those of Benson and Moorehead. Horror, sci-fi, thrillers, action, drama, romance -- it’s all suffering because it feels so inhibited. Filmmakers feel limited to a singular label of what a narrative must be, like coloring in the lines, while guys like Benson and Moorehead and other filmmakers at Fantastic Fest every year are proving that you can color outside of the lines and combine elements from various genres to create something wholly unique and engage with the audience on a new level. They’re waking us up again. Horror in particular is a genre that feels like it’s floundering, trapped in a toy box of found footage and first-person POV and exorcisms. But a horror film doesn’t just have to be horror, singular -- with ‘Resolution,’ Benson and Moorehead also combined elements of science fiction and comedy while creating their own sort of mythology, and they played with conventional storytelling to create something that was so strange and fresh.
‘Spring’ is representative of the sort of films at Fantastic Fest that prove that genre films can be more exciting, more engaging, and more dynamic. Horror films don’t need to be so stagnant and redundant, and neither do any of our other genre labels -- even rom-coms. ‘Obvious Child’ proved that the rom-com could be more than just a rom or a com, and while major studios seem comfortable to color in the lines and continue to function in the boundaries of what’s familiar, indie films -- especially those here at Fantastic Fest -- are giving those boundaries the middle finger. And we’re getting some pretty cool movies because of it.