Rites of Spring is a double-sided tale that flips back and forth between two different stories that eventually come colliding together to, basically, create a whole other movie. The first half of the story is about two girls who are being held captive in a barn. What is planned for these young women is unclear at first, but soon it becomes apparent that they will be partaking in a yearly ritual that has resulted in numerous missing women since 1984. The second half of the story also follows a kidnapping plot, as a handful of would-be criminals take hostage the daughters’ of a wealthy businessman in the hope they will receive a healthy ransom for their safe return.
Rites of Spring goes back and forth between these two storylines at a fairly good pace, and having the two intersect keeps things fairly captivating. However, the film takes an intriguing turn when these two worlds collide and a mysterious, and quite deadly, creature is introduced, adding yet another layer to this genre mashup. It’s negotiable as to whether this added layer is actually a good one, because it completely changes the landscape of the film, but there is no denying that the path from point A to point B is somewhat interesting and even a tad inspired for a low-budget genre effort.
Rites of Spring is writer/director Padraig Reynolds’ first full-length feature film, and what he does in his debut is, overall, impressive, all things considered. The filmmaking is solid, with good camerawork and editing, both of which nicely capture the impoverished small town farming locations used in the film. There are moments where, from time-to-time, the film shows its low-budget colors with some minor details and execution, but these moments are certainly minute, far from distracting and most definitely forgivable. One bigger issue, however, comes from a handful of less than magnificent performances. There’s nothing necessarily bad about any one specific performance, but outside of the always great AJ Bowen and a handful of other actors, the acting is on the weak side.
Where the film might divide some viewers most is in how Rites of Spring suddenly turns into, well, a monster/slasher movie in the third act. This is where people will either find the most enjoyment or completely jump off-board, if they were even on board to being with. For me, it sort of works, but it certainly could have worked better. Personally, I think it would have been smart to go one way or the other. The film may have worked better had it either gone all out with the monster movie aspect or, on the other hand, simply left the creature out completely and let the main threat be some desperate hillbilly townsfolk. Having both takes away from both, because, quite frankly, the monster is sort of cheesy. Fun, but a little cheesy. And that level of hokeyness feels out-of-place with the direction of the film’s first two acts.
One thing I would love to have seen with Rites of Spring is for it to have pushed things just a little further. The film needed to get a little darker; a little meaner; a little more visceral; a little dirtier; because there is a slight staleness to Rites of Spring – a staleness that holds it back from being more than a blip on the indie horror radar. Regardless, Rites of Spring is a moderately compelling mix of genres that blend together for an enjoyable but somewhat forgettable viewing experience.