The brand-new indie horror flick Rites of Spring employs a gimmick so smoothly effective and entertaining, it amazes me that more aspirants don't try it themselves: the multi-genre blender. You'd probably know this approach best from Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn, which starts out as a crime thriller before turning into an action-packed horror film. (It's also a comedy.) The key is to make all of the genres work together, and that's where this odd little thriller earns some big points. Rites of Spring starts out as a story about a kidnapping gone horribly wrong but slyly and smartly segues into slasher territory with equal parts color and carnage. And yes, it's also funny.
We start out with a murderous lunatic who kidnaps two young women. Then we cut away to a separate story about four sleazy criminals who are planning to kidnap a little girl from a nearby estate. Then we switch back over to learn a little more about that murderer and his creepy motives. And then, of course, we cut back to the kidnapping story, which is diverting enough in its own right... but here's the fun part: we know the two tales are going to collide eventually -- and it's not going to be pretty.
First-time writer / director Padraig Reynolds seems to be a big fan of keeping things quick. Rites of Spring runs less than 80 minutes, speeds through the requisite set-ups with no muss or fuss, and then drops his (surviving) characters into a fast-paced and unexpectedly suspenseful series of scrapes, escapes, and gruesome dispatches. If a few of the moments / characters / kills seem a bit familiar or a touch undercooked, everything flits by so quickly that it's hard to focus on the negatives.
Aside from its expeditious pace, its two-headed narrative structure, and its affection for dark horror, Rites of Spring also boasts some cool music, some legitimately novel motivations, and a handful of strong performances. Reuniting from The Signal are AJ Bowen (The House of the Devil) and Annessa Ramsey (Yellowbrickroad), and both actors could do cool indie horror in their sleep by now, but we also get an enjoyably sleazy performance by Sonny Marinelli and a suitably ominous one by resident psychotic Marco St. John.
So while Rites of Spring may not transcend its disparate collection of horror and suspense tropes, it earns big points for simply combining old components into something relatively fresh. It's quick, it's creepy, and it's more diverting than half of what passes for "wide release" horror these days.