Though it may not have been the intent of the filmmakers, IFC Midnight’s upcoming release, Rites Of Spring (available streaming and theatrically July 27th), has given birth to a slasher for a new generation. Writer/Director Padraig Reynolds certainly set out to make a movie that crisscrossed several characters in dire straits, but along the way a monster was given life that took the film in an entirely different direction. But, we’ll discuss that later.
Here’s the facts: We are witness to 2 different groups of people who’s lives intersect. One being 2 young women who are out for a drink blowing off some steam. They unfortunately leave the wrong bar at the wrong time. The other is a bit more complicated. The second group have plotted and executed the abduction of a daughter of a wealthy socialite. After the act is completed, they take refuge in an abandoned school building found in a secluded area. Their plan begins to unravel as the kidnapper’s conscious divides their team. As if the splintered criminal group wasn’t enough, the night escalates from bad to worse when they realize they’re standing on their own deathbed. The hideout is the killing ground for a ferocious beast that demands ritualistic sacrifice each spring. Check your calendars…
Okay, so there are a lot of ideas going on all at once in Rites Of Spring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re, let’s say, Quentin Tarantino. This isn’t a Tarantino movie. It’s a very ambitious movie that gets fairly convoluted as it progresses, but has its heart in the right place. With the cross section of multiple story lines going on all at once, I found myself shaking my head wondering where the hell Reynolds was going with all of this. That’s not to say I didn’t understand. I knew what the idea was, but the editing was such that it made for a handful of very messy moments. The back & forth wasn’t executed as fluidly as it necessitates to pull off that pace. On one hand, you’re following (what was shaping up to be) a horror film that is on the cusp of erupting in violence at any moment. Sparse dialogue, excluding the violent screams coming from the soon-to-be victims. You dig in as you prepare for the reveal. On the other hand, their is this character-driven crime drama taking place. An abducted child, a huge sum of money, vendettas…all the makings of a kick ass crime story. But it feels misplaced within the back & forth. As a participant, you know they will intersect, but it still seems unnecessary. It feels like 2 good ideas were put together to try and make one great one and neither fully came to fruition.
Not all is lost in this movie, however! In the midst of all this cacophony, a light comes bursting through in the form of a potential new slasher. He’s the antagonist who brings forth the reckoning. Credited as Wormface, this character is a subhuman hulking beast who towers over his prey. He comes adorning mummy-like wraps but still has that Jason-by-way-of-coal miner look. His weapon is a pick axe sort of object that take a head clean off with one swing. He isn’t above running after you, but he is capable of trapping you when you least expect it. Just when you think they’ve gotten away, another character meets their demise at the hands of this killing machine. If this sounds like a slasher flick, it’s because it turns into a slasher flick. Certainly the filmmaker had this notion during the writing process, but it also seems as if he’d set out to do it in a different fashion. While that didn’t always flesh out in the way they’d hoped (at least from my perspective), the third act where we see exactly what Wormface is capable of redeems some of the messiness that happens prior to. I would gladly have traded the disjointed character development during the first two thirds of the movie for what the finale delivered. Even at it’s most implausible, Rites Of Spring succeeds when it becomes what it truly is: A slasher movie.
The jury is still somewhat out for me in terms of just why the hell Rites Of Spring unfolds in the manner in which it does. You do empathize with certain characters, but still leave some behind with a shrug. Too many of them come and go without so much as chance to give a shit. When this movie does finally find its voice, it goes full throttle. It just happens quite late in the movie. Rites Of Spring has the potential to become a new slasher with its Wormface character. He’s a vicious monster who horror nuts would find endearing. This fella has marketability, but it comes down whether or not that’s what its creator wants. Without killing the ending, it is certainly left open. My hope is that Padraig Reynolds plans on goin’ for the gusto. I’d love to see this character and his backstory delved into much deeper. We’ve been due for something like this, between anxiously awaiting the return of Leslie Vernon, or prepping ourselves with another Victor Crowley go-round. The slasher fans are still holding out for a hero. Maybe we have one in our midst. Considering how many things I disliked in Rites Of Spring, I was still swooning at the prospect of coming across Wormface again. So, what do you say, Mr. Reynolds?