Rites of Spring 2011

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Here’s a bonus: with Rites of Spring you get two films for the price of one. And both are pretty good so that’s a nice bonus too.

Two plots run simultaneously as a couple of girls are abducted and tied up in a barn by a mad man with big white hair, and gang of crooks kidnap a rich man’s daughter and, of course, things do not run smoothly. The two plots don’t interact until there’s less than half an hour to go but the build up works well, the kidnap plot is mounting in tension until one of the girls from the other story literally bursts in on the crooks.

Okay, lets face it the girls being harassed by a lunatic isn’t going to win any prizes for originality. But the guy who’s holding them isn’t even the psycho. He’s just preparing them for something more sinister and supernatural. He has the rituals and rural location of a typical serial killer, but his motivations appear to be to control and appease a far worse threat. That threat is living in the basement of the barn, and while he’s mostly just a run-of-the-mill masked nutter with a blade, he’s also a little bit Jeepers Creepers. No I don’t mean he’s got wings and a penchant for old fashioned records, I mean its suggested that he’s something ancient and evil, although its never fully explained what. I don’t mind that though, sometimes half a hint of a background adds to the mystery, rather than having it all laid out for you. Plus it saves on somebody, usually an old geezer or cat lady, having to real off line after line of dreadful exposition, which is no fun for anyone.

Also said crazy monster with scythe thing has the worst skin. I mean he has worms living in his face. He really needs to start cleansing, toning and moisturising. He’s a mess:

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Meanwhile the kidnapping plot is also short on originality. There’s the good man who has doubts, his Lady Macbeth pushing him on, the crazy man who’s too frisky with his gun and can’t be trusted and a whole load of other cliches. However, and this is what really makes this whole film better than it has a right to be, its acted really well. The cast invest in their characters and make them far more interesting than they should be.  Sonny Marinelli as the bad, bad crook with the gun, plays him like massive bastard but also has moments of laid back cool, like he’s totally in control and having a right old time of it. Katherine Randolph as the Lady Macbeth type, has a sincere desperation as her motivation to do the kidnapping. Everyone is good, and its really nicely shot and edited too, which helps keeps things tense.

On the other side of things, our main girl, Anessa Ramsey, has to spend a lot of time doing what girls do in horror movies, that is get tied up, scream a lot and spend about half an hour trying to get cars started. But Ramsey does it with great gusto, and also a certain amount of confusion. Instead of just screaming all the time, she asks the crazy old man what it is he’s doing as he washes down her mate with a sponge and bucket. Most horror heroines don’t bother asking what it is the lunatic is doing and why. Not that she gets much of a straight answer, but its nice to see an enquiring mind.

Ramsey does get to do one of my head slap moments which happens a fair amount in the slasher genre. She accidentally kills one of her allies as he runs around the corner, thinking its going to be the killer. When you’re being stalked by a scythe-welding maniac you need all the friends you can get. So don’t stab them in the heart, it ain’t gonna help. Its the horror equivalent of an own goal but with more intestines spilling out. Unless that happens in football matches too, I don’t know, I try to avoid them.

Two things do bother me a bit though: Oh, Spoilers ahoy in this paragraph. 1) When Ramsey firsts arrives at the kidnap plot, one of the characters says he knows her. Its not explained how he knows her but at the beginning she says some one else got fired for her mistake and later he says he got fired from his job when it wasn’t even his fault. Does this mean she’s the reason he’s become a kidnapper in the first place. She’s got a lot to answer for, also its the same guy she accidentally kills about ten minutes later.  She’s a terrible person to know socially. 2) What happens to little girl they kidnapped? She escapes and is grabbed by someone but who? Its not the crazy scythe man, he’s inside the building she just got out of chopping up adults. I don’t think its the old white haired chap either, he’s back at his place cleaning stuff. So who is it? We never find out. Oh well… kids eh?

Anyway, I don’t want to say too much, its a modest film but with some nice surprises. It looks fantastic for a low budget horror, with beautiful compositions of farmland, and odd shots from inside abandoned buses and the like which add to the atmosphere. Plus once the two plots do intertwine it becomes pretty fast paced, and with the time spent investing in the characters before hand, its pretty exciting stuff. Plus it has a final shot which is a homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and that’s a nice bonus too.

 

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