Running Time: 79 minutes
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Robert Rodriguez proved how effective it was to merge two very different genres (i.e. crime thriller and horror) and deliver a hilarious and highly entertaining piece of beer movie gold. Premiering early in the year at Glasgow Frightfest, director Padraig Reynolds attempts to do the same with the Rites of Spring. During it’s UK premier, the Glasgow crowd seemed to appreciate the bloody carnage that appeared on screen. But has Reynolds’s created a debut project that slasher fans will be shouting or screaming about come it’s release date later in the year?
Hard on his luck criminal, Ben (AJ Bowen – House of the Devil) reluctantly agrees to kidnap the child of a successful businessman. His gang abduct the girl and hide in an abandoned school while they squabble over what to do next. Meanwhile Kelly Hayden (Skylar Burke) and her friend wake up in a barn after being attacked and drugged by an unknown assailant. They soon find out that they are dinner for an ancient creature called Wormface (a cross between the Creeper and Jason Vorhees) that demands young, female sacrifices on the first day of spring. When one of the girls escapes the farm and seeks refuge in the dilapidated school, Hayden’s gang are less and happy to see her. They are even less pleased to accomodate their second, blood thirsty guest of the evening who will stop at nothing until they are all dead.
For the first half of Rites of Spring, the director does everything right. The build up and tension, especially during the early kidnapping scenes are right on the money. Reynolds has undoubtedly a talent for horror and some of the early, half seen shots of Wormface are incredibly creepy. There is also the occasional scene that sticks in the mind. One sequence involving a strung up and naked teenager being forced to wear a cow mask is extremely uncomfortable to watch. The impressive cinematography and edgy soundtrack only enhance the experience.
The cast are by no means A-list but do deliver solid performances throughout. Reynolds has assembled a group of actors from horror classics such as the aforementioned, House of the Devil and The Signal (Anessa Ramsey) and more mainstream releases such as Jarhead (Katherine Randolph) and Marco St John (Monster). AJ Bowen is probably the pick of the bunch as a criminal with a conscience. He portrays a good man that finds himself on the wrong side of the law through bad luck and misjudged decisions.
Rites of Spring loses all credibility when the action finally arrives. The problem is not that the gore scenes fail to repel or that the atmosphere is poorly handled. Most of the makeup and stunt effects are perfectly executed for such a low budget project. The project fails due to the familiarity in everything that takes place. There is little on display here that has not already been covered in movies like Jeepers Creepers, The Hills Have Eyes, Friday the Thirteenth, High Tension etc, etc, etc. The story is also unwisely severed just when the action is in top gear. If you felt cheated at the end of the superior, House of the Devil just wait until you witness the way this film ends. Where as Ti West’s movie had us begging for more, Rites of Spring just irritates the hell out of you. Unfortunately it seems to indicate that the producers have already decided that Wormface is going to be a sequel spawning success. Perhaps this is an unwise decision when this spring offering seems to be well past its sell by date already.