Rites of Spring has been compared to From Dusk Till Dawn for its intersection of a crime thriller storyline with a more traditionally genre one. Spring, though, takes a far more serious approach to both film-types and can be more accurately described as Malevolence meets Jeepers Creepers.
In fact, the crime thriller half of the plot is so similar to Steven Mena’s moody Slasher that it comes dangerously close to wandering into rip-off territory. We have a small group of criminals, two of which meet ahead of time so that one can be reassured by the other, one of them is an unreliable hot-head, and one of them is another’s girlfriend. Only the crime itself, a kidnapping rather than a bank robbery, lends the plotline’s initial set-up any originality. Later, though, a few twists and turns are thrown in, further distancing the crime elements in this movie from those in Malevolence.
The horror storyline also involves a kidnapping, which makes up the film’s opening sequence. An older man grabs two young women, including our final girl, Rachel, played by Anessa Ramsey, from a bar’s parking lot. The women are strung up in a barn and it soon becomes clear that they are being offered as a sacrifice to a mysterious creature that appears to live in the barn’s basement.
The two plotlines intersect in a manner that requires a hefty dose of coincidence but, if one is willing to look past this fact, it makes for some suspenseful sequences as two complicated situations become one major crapstorm.
The film is well shot by writer/director Padraig Reynolds, though his script is uneven at times, giving the impression that he never had a complete handle on the events he’d set into motion. The acting is solid, with reliably good performances by Ramsey and A.J. Bowen, who plays one of the kidnappers.
The creature is an interesting surprise; though it looks like a mummified homeless person, it wields and axe and tends to run rather than stalk. Its appearance and brutality provide a few shocks given that it looks like it could hardly walk let alone leap and slash. The creature’s favorite method of murder seems to be decapitation, which has gotten a little old of late, but it’s handled well here, with solid effects.
Though the blend of crime thriller and horror is (mostly) new, and the creature is a fairly original antagonist, the film fails to truly break any new ground. Reynolds has said that he has ideas for an eventual trilogy, and the ending—which I thought a little abrupt—certainly lends itself to continuation, but a sequel’s success would depend largely on whether or not viewers are intrigued by the creature and its origins, which are only hinted at here.
Personally, I could take or leave a sequel. If it happens, I’ll check it out, but if it never happens, I certainly won’t lose any sleep over it. I would suggest adopting a similar attitude to this first film in the possible trilogy: if you get a chance to see it, do so; but if you never do get that chance, don’t worry ’bout it. Rites of Spring is solid, but not a must-see.