I have to be honest here. When I first read the synopsis to Rites Of Spring, I was concerned. I like genre mash-up films but I couldn’t help but think, “Ah, a Jeepers Creepers clone”. It’s an obvious comparison.
I don’t remember the last time I was so happy to be wrong. Padraig Reynolds’ film is MILES ahead of Jeepers Creepers.
I didn’t go into Rites Of Spring with massive expectations. I went into it expecting a daft, monster movie. Some mindless, gory escapism. What I actually got was an involving and impressive little horror flick that wound up being among my personal highlights of Glasgow Frightfest.
The film opens on a Texas Chainsaw style intro card that offers us a snippet of back story. Back in 1984, several teenagers vanished without a trace. No bodies were ever found. However, no sooner had these unexplained disappearances begun, than they stopped. Until the following year, when the cycle started again. This pattern of disappearances has continued for 24 years.
We are introduced to “The Stranger”, the man behind the disappearances, as he begins his yearly ritual again by selecting his latest crop of nubile young girls to sacrifice to the monster he keeps locked up in his cellar.
But as I mentioned, this is a mash-up. Part-crime thriller, part horror. So while The Stranger gets to work, we are introduced to Ben. Ben is down on his luck and up to his eyes in debt so together with his brother Tommy, girlfriend Amy and bad dude, Paul, they plot to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman…and as is the way of the genre cross, so these two concurrent storylines must converge into one and it is skillfully handled.
Reynolds has woven a fine yarn here. His script is tight and clearly well thought out. Filmed in Mississippi, the entire film looks great and the locations are excellent and absolutely in keeping with the tone of the film. His direction is crisp and the finished film displays production values that belie the low budget.
The casting is pitch perfect. Anessa Ramsey (YellowBrickRoad) is excellent as “final girl” Rachel, while Sonny Marinelli is appropriately menacing as Paul. Marco St. John is great. He brings real depth, and just a smattering of resigned vulnerability to the character of The Stranger, while remaining a threatening figure throughout.
And then there’s AJ Bowen. Bowen has become one of the poster boys for the current wave of American indie horror, with appearances in Ti West’s House Of The Devil and Adam Wingard’s A Horrible Way To Die under his belt. However, Rites of Spring sees Bowen tackling the role of the “good guy”, a nice change of pace from his normal characters. Bowen is, as Reynolds said in the post screening interview, “fucking awesome” and will only go from strength to strength.
Which brings us on to the “creature”. This was where I had my doubts and at first glance, I didn’t know quite what to make of it. However, it soon became apparent as it began to move, run and hack people up with laudable gusto that I wasn’t actually dealing with a creature feature at all. I was dealing with a slasher film. Given my well documented love of slasher flicks, I was sold. Immediately.
The creature, or “Wormface” as he is referred to in the credits comes across as a cross between Jason and a mummy and is certainly an imposing figure. He hacks, slashes and chops at his victims. I like when a slasher has some power behind him and everything that Wormface does looks brutal.
So, all in all, Rites of Spring was a hugely pleasant surprise. I expected nothing but found it to be a well made, well acted and thoroughly enjoyable horror flick. There were quite a few unanswered questions and hints at a deeper back story, however, I don’t think you will have to wait that long to find out the answers. Rites of Spring, and indeed, Wormface, are a welcome addition to the genre.
As is Padraig Reynolds.
Check it out. Highly recommended.
(Stay tuned to AndyErupts for our interview with Padraig from Glasgow Frightfest)