Rites of Spring

“Are You Clean?”

Main Cast: Anessa Ramsey and AJ Bowen

Director: Padraig Reynolds

So, Padraig Reynolds’s 2011 movie Rites of Spring, huh? Meh. Wasn’t impressed.

The story is pretty simple, if a bit convoluted. Rachel (Anessa Ramsey, Yellowbrickroad) is at a bar with her friend, lamenting a bad deal at work. Seems the company she works for just lost a BIG client, and while it was totally Rachel’s fault, she let a co-worker, Ben (AJ Bowen, You’re Next), take the fall. Rachel and her friend head to the car as Rachel decides to fess up the next day, but before she can unburden her conscience, she and her friend are kidnapped by an old dude who drugs them and brings them back to his farm where he strings them up and feeds their blood to a monster he has locked up in a pit under his barn.

Meanwhile back in town, Ben, his girlfriend Amy, and an associate of Ben’s, Paul, are planning a little criminal venture of their own. They’re going to kidnap the daughter of the man who runs the company Ben was just fired from, demanding $2 million for her safe return. Paul also brings the nanny along, insisting she’s seen his face. What Ben doesn’t know is that, before leaving the house, Paul shot the rich guy’s wife in the head.

Now here’s where these stories converge: Rachel manages to get away from the crazy farmer stranger–who, once a year, on March 21, kidnaps a woman and feeds her to the monster under his barn in return for a healthy harvest that year–and is chased across a cornfield, then into an abandoned building by the monster under the barn, who is now no longer under the barn, but has escaped his pit and is, as previously stated, now chasing Rachel. It just so happens, this abandoned building is also the same place Ben–whom Rachel got fired–and his cohorts are hiding with the rich guy’s daughter.

The monster follows and the last half of the movie turns into a long, poor-executed chase scene.

I get the feeling Reynolds (“Buried Alive”) wasn’t entirely sure what kind of movie he wanted to make here. Maybe a kidnap movie. Maybe a monster movie. Maybe both. Maybe TWO kidnap movies and a monster movie. I just never got the sense of a single, cohesive story being told.

The actors did their best to sell it, but when Rachel spends 75% of the movie crying and asking “Why!?!?!”, really, how much could she do with it? And I like Anessa Ramsey. Yellowbrickroad was one of those movies that, as soon as I finished it, I watched it again. She’s got talent, but wasn’t given much of anything to work with here.

AJ Bowen, also, did a passable job. He plays the kidnapper with the heart of gold, and he pulls it off, but, again, was given so little to do here besides, in the last half of the movie, run and scream, I never found myself feeling one way or another about him.

The monster was a big disappointment, as well. Our first glimpse of the creature promises grotesque deformities, but once it gets out of the pit, it’s just a big man dressed in bandages, running around carrying a strange sword/scythe-type weapon. I just didn’t buy it. And we get absolutely zero backstory on the thing, so I’m not even sure what it was SUPPOSED to be.

For me, Rites of Spring just misses the mark by not being forthcoming on the type of story it’s trying to tell, or maybe in trying to be too many stories all at once. In doing so, it fails in fully being ANY of them. I hear rumors of a sequel, with promises to tie up the lose ends left by this one, and if I come across it I may give it a shot, but I’m certainly not seeking it out or buying the DVD.

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