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Rites of Spring – 7

Director – Padraig Reynolds

Cast – Anessa Ramsey, AJ Bowen, Katherine Randolph, Sonny Marinelli, Shanna Forrestall, Marco St. John, Andrew Breland, Hannah Bryan, Skylar Burke, James Bartz

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I remember being pretty stoked when I first read about Rites of Spring, and that was because it involved one of my favorite story elements: criminals committing a crime and coming across horrors they never saw coming. This effort marks writer/director Padraig Reynolds’ first feature and full-length film, and he accomplishes this feat with good results. The story is simple but provides enough horror and conflict to keep the viewer engaged throughout this short 80 minute experience. Reynolds’ comes off as a veteran director and compliments the story with live-action FX and a sweet looking antagonist to provide the goods, making for an experience I enjoyed more than I expected to.

Every spring young women mysteriously disappear from a small town and are never heard from again. When Rachel and her friend are kidnapped by a creepy old man they learn the disappearances are no coincidence but are in fact part of a deep-buried secret the town has been keeping for decades. Meanwhile, a group of criminals scrapped for cash carry out a kidnapping-for-ransom and just when they think they have a clean getaway they find themselves face to face with the reason the small town has a “Rite” of Spring.

As mentioned before, I really enjoy stories where the initial antagonists find themselves in a reversal of roles when they come across a force they did not expect. The film takes off quickly, splitting screen time with the two different plots – the first being the kidnapping of Rachel and her friend after leaving a bar. They wake up shackled in a barn far from civilization and are at the mercy of an old man who seems very adamant about pleasing somebody with the bodies of the two women. This plot focuses on Rachel as she tries to free herself and her friend before they discover the secret the old man is hiding, and Rachel learns she is too late if the plans to secure an easy escape. The second plot follows the successful kidnapping of a young girl with a rich father who the kidnappers assume will pay their 2 million dollar ransom for the safe return of his daughter. While we follow the two stories evenly I found that I was more interested in the ransom story than Rachel’s kidnapping, and for a number of reasons. The ransom element involves more characters, which makes for more stuff going on in general such as conflicts, deaths, etc., and that made it the more “entertaining” story to follow. I loved watching their elation as they realize they are going to get away with the money then turn to absolute fear when they come across what Rachel has been trying to escape from, and that is where our two stories meet and provide blood-soaked greatness for the remainder of the film.

So what are all these people running from? Without giving too much away, they are running from a hideous man-like creature that apparently lies dormant in an underground lair beneath the town and rises every spring to feed. To keep the creature at bay the old man who kidnapped Rachel has been kidnapping young women for years to feed to the creature, but now things did not go according to his plan and the creature is loose. I really enjoy seeing these types of stories where small towns hide heinous rituals that are needed in order to keep certain horrors at bay, and the creature element only added to my enjoyment. I really enjoyed this story from Padraig Reynolds thanks to that and his mashing up of two seemingly unrelated plots to erupt into a very eventful final half of the film. His pacing was great and the story never slowed down or lost my interest, and he did so thanks to good conflict early on and giving us plenty of gory kills as the film progressed.

Reynolds’ direction ensured that his story did not go to waste, leaving me impressed at how well he did with his first full-length effort. His execution of the initial conflict and his characters was what had me sold on this film from the get-go, giving us good tension during the initial kidnappings and keeping it there for the remainder of the film. The sets used were great and only became better as the film progressed and the story moved into a nighttime setting, and the musical score complimented Reynolds’ positive atmosphere. Of course, with the initial conflict keeping you engaged the horror eventually manifested itself onscreen and resulted in more gory goodness than I expected to see. The look of the antagonist was great and his mannerisms were fun and his actions resulted in some very enjoyable kills delivered via a very sharp object. While this was not an overly scary film there were a few good scenes of positive tension, but I saw this as more of a serious film with fun scenes over one that was deliberately aiming to deliver lots of chills.

Overall, Rites of Spring is an enjoyable flick that gives us a cool story and a fresh breath for the genre thanks to this not being a remake/zombie/POV film. Reynolds’ writing and direction keeps the viewer engaged and makes for good horror, just don’t expect greatness and you’ll leave with a great experience.

Rating: 7/10

  1. Allen Wade
    December 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Beautifully Done!! Gritty and realistic because it falls in line with what could actually happen: that’s WHY it scares the Shit Out Of YOU!! Cannot wait for more films from this group of talented people!!!

  2. mikey
    December 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    ha i like how in one scene its morning then the next its night…..bad editing =(

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