A few weeks ago, Sam and I sat down to watch Spring (2014), a horror-romance from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. We were both rather unsure of what to expect, but the film has gathered quite a few devoted followers and generated quite a bit of positive buzz, so we were intrigued. And when I met Louise, I was even more intrigued. (FYI, today’s Monster Monday contains major spoilers for Spring.)
The beginning of the film centers on Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) an young American who finds himself fleeing to Italy after the death of his mother and a bar-fight that could get him arrested. Once abroad, he accompanies a pair of British bros to a small Italian town, and there he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker). She gives him the brush-off at first, but he is persistent—persistent enough to take a job with a nearby farmer and settle in the town that Louise calls home.
Bit by bit, the Average American Fellow wins Louise over. She goes on a date with him; they kiss; they have sexy times; they wander about the small, picturesque town together; they talk about a future. Well, Evan talks about a future. One of the first hints that Louise is operating on a different level than Evan is her cagey way of responding to his discussions about the future.
Louise is a geneticist working on inherited traits in homogenous populations. And she is operating on a different level entirely than Evan. Lest we forget, this is a horror-romance. And at some times, it is easy to forget that there’s a horrific element to the screen play. Much of the film plays out with the grace of a beautifully shot romance.
But then, small moments creep into the film: the beautiful shot turns to a rotting corpse on the ground nearby or to a glimpse of the monster. Sometimes she looks—well—different: an area of mottled skin, a patch of fur, scales and fangs…All things that prompt Louise to use the injections she carries with her, injections that return her to normal human form. Evan, who is convinced he is in love with Louise, doesn’t see any of this, of course, but we do.
And it’s engrossing. I found myself just waiting for those small moments of monstrosity, wondering what Louise could be. I quickly ran down a list of all kinds of mythical creatures, but none fit—and rightly so, since Louise is a genetic anomaly. Eventually she reveals this to Evan, along with the information that she’s 2,000 years old. Every 20 years she gets pregnant and then regenerates, turning into a new being with half of her genes, half of her mates genes, and all of her memories.
She’s pregnant now, and the closer she moves to regenerating, the more monstrous she becomes. She
cycles through evolutionary forms as she moves toward renewal. There’s a catch though—as always. If she’s fallen in love, the oxytocin released will interfere with the regeneration. She’ll become human, in essence. She knows this because it happened to her mother, who was killed with the rest of the family when Pompeii was destroyed.
Evan latches onto this idea, of course. He wants Louise to settle down with him, have a family. Raise their child. But Louise never seems sure of their relationship, which of course began because she needed a mate for regeneration. The only time she seems close to loving Evan is after he’s seen her turn into a monster and still stayed beside her. She seems never to have revealed that to anyone, and she is utterly surprised that he doesn’t start up a mob or at least run away screaming.
And perhaps that is why she falls in love with him, despite her protestations and despite her objections. Because at film’s end, Louise doesn’t transform, indicating that oxytocin has interrupted her regeneration and that she does, in fact, love Evan. Still, I find this problematic. Evan’s character is not incredibly compelling, and he certainly pressures Louise into all kinds of things. She’s 2,000 years old, at least, and she’s presumably not been in love before, so her protests that she does not love this boy she’s only known for a week seem entirely valid.
Until they’re not.
I wish our monster got a better ending, or that her happy ending seemed happier somehow. Instead, it feels as though she’s giving away an essential element of herself without wanting to. The monstrous feminine submits, and the Average White Guy wins. Louise will likely have offspring like herself, and she will grow old and die, perhaps not even with this fellow who she’s only known for a week. Love is funny that way. And so are monsters.