After two seemingly random gals are abducted by a unknown man with a sinister agenda, another equally sinister scheme is unfolding miles away. Ben (AJ Bowen) is a down-on-his-luck guy that is, due to financial hardships, forced to take part of something terrible – kidnap and hold ransom to a wealthy business man’s young daughter. Under the mercy & orders of the plan’s mastermind, Ben along with his girlfriend & brother, successfully take hostage of the girl and rendezvous at an abandoned high school to wait for their money to be delivered. The real terror begins once these characters literally run into each other, leading to something with a seasonal thirst for blood rising to quench it’s appetite.
RITES OF SPRING is a bit of a genre mash that successfully fuses crime & horror to create a dual narrative that smacks together to form something central. Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn has been a frequent comparison in terms of themes & tone and I have to say that’s pretty accurate here. You might think that’s spoiler territory but fear not as it’s hinted at early on and by all means is a compliment. Director Padraig Reynold’s plays this very straight however and cuts back & forth between the simultaneous events which builds a nice amount of tension throughout.
Independent horror darling AJ Bowen is front and center here, playing a side we haven’t quite seen him tackle yet; a good guy. Bowen’s Ben isn’t a psychotic evil doer, rather a timid, reluctant & good-natured character pushed to an unfathomable task. While it’s what turned me into fan of Bowen’s in the first place, it’s refreshing to not see him shooting, stabbing or choking out women for a change. Along for the ride is Anessa Ramsey (making this a mini The Signal reunion!), Sonny Marinelli in a brooding role & an ominous supporting turn from genre vet Marco St. John (Sheriff Tucker from the highly underrated Friday The 13th: A New Beginning!).
The reveal towards the middle to third act is inspired and leads to some gory moments that elicits some winces. It suffers slightly from turning into a cliche stalk-and-kill once shit hits the fan but it whizzes by in a tight manner leaving little to complain. Much is left in the way of mystery leading to an ambiguous end which may frustrate, but Reynolds intends to expand the mythology touched upon here into a full blown trilogy. RITES OF SPRING is an independent feature that harbors great performances & creepy twist and turns, making this more than worth your time.
RITES OF SPRING is directed by Padraig Reynolds & stars AJ Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Sonny Marinelli, Marco St. John and opens in select theaters & VOD+Digital July 27th from IFC Midnight.