Thursday, July 26, 2012

IFC Midnight: Rites of Spring

It’s time to spring forward—into a violent, bloody death.  There is a reason a small rural Mississippi county always has perfect weather for their crops.  Initially, a ruthless band of kidnappers couldn’t care less about agriculture when they abduct a young girl for ransom, but they soon will in Padraig Reynolds’ Rites of Spring (trailer here), which begins a run of midnight screenings this Friday in New York at the IFC Center and will also be available nationally on VOD.

Rachel Adams is drowning her guilt at a local tavern.  Thanks to a mistake she made, the office doormat got canned. Unfortunately, it is also the first day of spring.  That means an old farmer has to find five sacrifices to the “it” living under the trap door in his barn to maintain the supernaturally good local weather.  Adams and her friend Alyssa Miller are about to see the inside of his psycho-stalker van.

Ben Geringer is the dumb jerk from Adams’ office.  Somewhat disappointed by recent events, Geringer agrees to a dodgy plot to kidnap the daughter of his now former boss.  However, Paul Nolan, the ostensive mastermind, seems to nurse an even deeper grudge against their well-heeled target.  Naturally, Geringer and company hole-up in a shuttered high school not far from the old coot’s farm, so when Adams manages to escape, she blunders into their abduction drama.  Of course, the ravenous beast also follows.

This will probably disappoint many potential viewers, but they should know there is no Stravinsky on Spring’s soundtrack.  As a genre hybrid, it is somewhat uneven.  However, it is surprisingly effective as a rather dark and nasty crime drama, at least for a while.  Sonny Marinelli makes a particularly entertaining villain as the all kinds of bad news Nolan.  As Geringer and his Lady Macbethish girlfriend, indie genre vets A.J. Bowen and Katherine Randolph also fare quite respectably in the straight crime scenes.

Conversely, the supernatural-slasher side of the coin is often pretty silly.  It is hard to believe the old farmer still has enough gas in his tank to lug about full grown adults, while the what-ever-it-is just looks like a dude with gauze tied around his head.

Reynolds team scouted some good locations, most notably the big spooky industrial looking school building.  He is also builds some nice claustrophobic tension, only to let it deflate as soon as the action shifts to the evil farmhouse.  The rather abrupt ending does not help much nor does the brief but befuddling stinger.  Frankly, the film has its moments, but it just doesn’t pan out.  That’s life.  A serviceable midnight movie candidate, but highly flawed when judged on its merits, Rites of Spring screens round midnight at the IFC Center, starting tomorrow (7/27).