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Spring Review

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In Italy, Evan (Pucci), an American drifter, meets Louise (Hilker), a local girl with whom he becomes instantly entranced... However, she isn’t completely human and can be dangerous.

★★★★

Having barged in on his girlfriend at a particularly unfortunate moment when she is writhing on the kitchen floor half-transformed into a giant octopus, our astonished hero (Lou Taylor Pucci) takes the next quiet moment in their relationship to ask calmly, “Are you a vampire, werewolf, zombie, witch or alien?” Not least among the strengths of Spring is that she isn’t any of these, though there are moments when she seems to be a combination of them all. There’s a fully worked-out rationale for who she is and how she has survived the centuries since the devastation of Pompeii. Louise (Nadia Hilker), once a demi-goddess and now a geneticist, hasn’t even come to a conclusion about whether she’s a supernatural being or not.

Directors Justin Benson (who also scripts) and Aaron Moorhead made a smart little debut with the cabin-in-the-woods horror Resolution, and here up their game with one of the freshest genre offerings of recent years. It takes its time to get going, with Pucci — seen in the Evil Dead remake — effective as a short-fused, understandably put-out twentysomething who loses his job on the day of his mother’s funeral and gets simultaneously in trouble with local roughs and the cops. Impulsively, he spends his inheritance on travel, drifts along for a while with a couple of amusingly caricatured British lads, then meets the bewitching Louise... who blows hot and cold for reasons which eventually make sense.

Most films would save the reveal for the climax and go all-out for horror, but the astonishing stretch of Spring comes when Evan decides to accept Louise’s condition and bank on the literally redemptive power of love. In an era when monster-human relationships are the much-mocked stuff of teen soaps, Spring has the nerve to depict a complicated romance between a regular guy and a near-immortal shapeshifter — it’s like a Before Sunrise sequel reimagined by Clive Barker. Pucci and Hilker are outstanding, Italy looks lovely and the storytelling is unfussy but still implies backstory and emotional connections that take a while to become clear.

A wholly captivating date movie for eternal romantics who also enjoy slime-and-tentacle transformations.