A Taste Formation for Cheesy Horror

Spring (2014), directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, identifies itself as “romantic horror”. Before actually seeing the movie, when I first heard “romantic horror”, the genre does not immediately make sense to me. I mean, what does that even mean? Is it like BDSM or is it like the weird film that Adam from May makes? Because I used to think that combining romance and horror is not feasible. It would be at most be like a horror movie with a love story element – which is not actually different from a normal horror story and can do well (or better) without the love story element.

However, Spring is actually different. It is a good mix of both the romance and the horror genre, wherein it cannot be one or the other.  I found it to be smart and well-written. Although like Pontypool, I did not find it as scary as I would expect of a horror movie; but that does not threaten its identity and quality as a horror film (also like Pontypool). It looks like a horror film (in its tropes and with its monster), it operates as a horror film (with its moves and architecture), and it has its terrifying moments. It is undoubtedly a horror film. However, it really is amazing to me how it also is undoubtedly a romantic film. As a movie in general, it is actually good. It is a bit cheesy, but to a healthy degree (This is coming from a person who generally hates cheesy films.)

I think it is a good text reference for Mark Jancovich’s article, Genre and the Audience because it gives the impression that it is an ambivalent horror film, because it pushes boundaries between two very different movie genres. However, Jancovich points out that genre distinctions does not serve to designate or classify texts or films but to forward the discussion about the movie and about how the genre can develop. Paracinema are similar examples of those that can achieve, whether intentionally or not, a similar effect. They operate based on taste formation and the reception of the film. Spring can be discussed either as a romance movie or a horror movie. Borrowing the idea of Schuber cited in Jancovich’s article, one can enjoy the pleasures of both without it threatening their self-identification as a “horror fan” or a “romance fan”.

Warning: The succeeding discussion contains spoilers

I think the nature of the monster enriches our discussion of the film as a horror movie, however it is counteracted or mellowed by the romantic elements of the movie. For instance, we can consider how the monster contains a very deep mystery beyond the normal. However, due to the romantic aspect, this mystery is revealed through confession rather than overwhelming violence and victimization (although in withholding confession at first, Louise almost harmed Evan). I think this severely downplays the monster character. In that instead of the “monster” being abnormal, it only becomes unusual but still a part of reality that we must and can accept. The “monster” can also be viewed as female entity that threatens male dominance in that it uses sex (which is constructed to be an act of male dominance) for its own nourishment. However, seeing it as though Louise had lost her immortality because of a man might be seen as anti-feminist. This dynamic between the horror and the romance aspects of the film carefully blurs out the divide between the two.

Another interesting aspect of the film is the conflict of love. Louise is a foil of Evan when it comes to this conflict, and that we can see this conflict in our own internal struggle with love. Evan somehow characterizes the wounded aspect of us who acknowledges that he cannot live fully without love. Louise, on the other hand, somewhat exemplifies the aspect of us that feels that we are most invincible outside love. After the revel, when Evan had come to terms with Louise’s monstrosity, the only tension left is that between seeing love as a need and seeing love as vulnerability. Arguably, the resolution boiled down only to whether Louise will open up to Evan or not – a conscious choice rather than “falling in love” due to chance and circumstances.

Spring brilliantly incorporates the elements of horror and romance, pushing the boundaries between two genres. While horror fans might get the horror satisfaction from the Louise character, people who are not actually big fans of horror may also argue that maybe there is no monster.

References:

Mark Jancovich, “Genre and the Audience: Genre Classifications and Cultural Distinctions in the Mediation of The Silence of the Lambs.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)

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