Rites of Spring | Movie review
A scare flick gets lost in the usual backwoods-horror tropes.
“Tradition” guides the killer of Rites of Spring, just as it does the film itself, a hodgepodge of genre clichés that proves as exciting as a bloody nose. After a perfunctory text prologue about yearly teen-girl abductions, first-time feature director Padraig Reynolds’s horror show divides its attention between an old hillbilly (Marco St. John) who’s kidnapped Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) and Alyssa (Hannah Bryan) for some ritual-sacrifice bloodshed, and the efforts of cipher Ben (A.J. Bowen) and some shady accomplices to kidnap his wealthy former employer’s daughter for ransom.
These separate strands both concern men taking women hostage for what they justify as righteous reasons. Yet any passing thematic coherence is quickly lost amid the usual backwoods-horror tropes, from eerie shots of cornfields, abandoned barns and animal skulls to the eventual introduction of a semi-supernatural psychopath who, in this instance, is clothed in tattered rags, wields a farming blade and has the apparent ability to preserve his victims—all killed on the first day of spring each year—in webbing. Why this fiend likes to feast on human heads, why such nastiness must take place on every March 21 and why his behavior has an impact on the old man’s crop harvest are all questions left unanswered by Reynolds’s dim, scare-free script. By the time the two narrative threads finally dovetail in hilariously contrived fashion, all that’s left are chase-through-the-woods set pieces almost as dull as the material’s obligatory, unearned shout-outs to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Children of the Corn. (Available on VOD Fri 27; see ifcfilms.com for details.)