Rites of Spring is another in a growing trend of movies that begin with a bunch of bad guys committing a crime and ending up in a horror scenario (From Dusk Till Dawn, The Cottage, Malevolence, Dead Birds, etc.). Such a straightforward and effective premise. So how does this highly effective horror film totally fuck up the simple plot?
Let’s start with the scares. It does so much right to appease my horror sensibilities. The pacing is fantastic as two worlds collide. A foursome of kidnappers takes a little girl from a rich family and awaits ransom in an abandoned building. At the same time, two young women are abducted outside a bar and brought by a creepy old man to a barn where they are “prepared” for something that’s living in the basement.
As the situation spirals out of control for the kidnappers, a horrific backwoods humanoid thing with a sharp weapon comes up from the basement of the barn and gives chase to a chick who is able to escape. She ends up hiding in a seemingly abandoned building….
All the best slasher elements are present. The creature is awesomely gnarly. The suspense and jump scares are perfect. The backwoods horror atmosphere is great. There’s just enough violence and brutality. And indie horror cutie AJ Bowen is the male lead.
But even better is the female lead. Anessa Ramsey, who has appeared in horror films like The Signal and Yellowbrickroad and is super intense as the terrified final girl here.
The problem with the film if you’re a stickler for logic is that there are too many unnecessary details hinted at that are never expanded upon or explained. Don’t you get it, Rites of Spring? We’re perfectly fine with there simply being backwoods monsters that kill anybody that comes along. But you had to try to be deeper than that.
It’s referenced that every spring since 1984 (awesome), young, pretty girls (valedictorians, prom queens, etc.) have been disappearing. There are newspaper clippings in the old man’s house saying as much. And pinned to the wall are pictures of the final girl. So…was she handpicked? Why her? Was she especially successful in school? Does the monster even care, because it seems incredibly indiscriminate when killing.
Why does the old man think certain victims need to be given sponge baths and why does he drop appetizer blood samples from the victims down to the creature beforehand? Why does the old man put a cow mask over their heads? It kills even those who don’t wear the mask. Does it have sex with the masked victims? Is it reproducing with them?
What is the creature? The old man babbles some stuff that makes it sound like it’s some mythical, evil entity that needs sacrifices and can’t be killed. In its icky lair are sticky indications that it’s not human. Yet it walks around with a weapon and a mask that make it appear to be nothing more than a deformed human…that can be killed.
Is it a legend that has the whole town under its spell? Because there doesn’t even seem to be a town, but then in the very last scene, there appears to be a “lock your doors and don’t let anyone in on this special night of the year” mentality. Is the main girl from the town? Doesn’t she know about the dangers of the first night of spring?
On top of all that, there’s one character that seems to just disappear after running into the creature…unless they simply opted not to show the death. And what became of the old man? He wasn’t killed? Can the creature teleport? Because the main girl escaped in a car and drives far away…and yet the creature is there minutes later.
The film concludes with a very open-ended “Texas Chainsaw” escape. It most definitely feels like it needs a sequel that picks up right where the first one left off…and explains a whole lot of shit that even the after-credits tag doesn’t clear up. If there was ever a movie that did a great job of rocking the senseless scares, Rites of Spring is it.