Film Review: Rites of Spring

You don&#8217;t have to be a fan of slasher movies to get a kick out of <i>Rites of Spring</i>... but it&#8217;d help.

Once you find out Rites of Spring involves a humanoid killer that turns up on the first day of the season to make its annual rounds, it might be tempting to remember other timely slasher movies—Halloween, Friday the 13th, Black Christmas, April Fool’s Day and My Bloody Valentine, just to name a few. (Does Prom Night count?)

Even if you’re a fan of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, chances are you’re all too aware that this material’s hit-or-miss. What makes Rites of Spring worthwhile, though, is that it plays like a kidnapping caper some slasher happened to slice its way into, which keeps the premise fresh enough to hold down a 90-minute feature. For anyone who’s spent hours catching up on those Child’s Play movies, 90 minutes should be, well, child’s play.

For Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) and Alyssa (Hannah Bryan), on the other hand, the going gets tough when a prowler (Marco St. John) spots them tumbling out of a bar one night. After he knocks them out and strings them up in a barn, they wake to discover they’ve become unwilling participants in the life cycle of a monster underground. Their host is light on details about what they can expect, but the fact that he’s cut off Alyssa’s clothes and is making her wear a mask isn’t a good sign.

Meanwhile, Ben’s (AJ Bowen) got problems of his own. Money’s so tight that he and his girlfriend (Katherine Randolph) have to offer a helping hand to Paul (Sonny Marinelli), who’s got his eye on a young girl (Skylar Page Burke) he’s planning to abduct and hold for ransom. As if Ben’s conscience weren’t enough of a liability, he also has to worry about his brother (Andrew Breland) putting himself in harm's way by picking up the money. Although the whole thing doesn’t quite go according to plan, it hardly matters once they realize there’s a killer on the loose.

For all the action going on here, writer-director Padraig Reynolds knows how to maintain suspense whenever our heroes aren’t on the run. As a matter of fact, he’s so successful at creating atmosphere that the risk of keeping everybody in a desolate place as long as he does pays off when the monster has them cornered there. He makes sure everyone in the cast stays on the same page, too, though some characters last longer than others. That’s how these bloodbaths usually play out—there aren’t many surprises here—but then again, you can’t knock tradition.