Life has a way of hitting us hard in unexpected ways. When the going gets tough, we are faced with the gargantuan, seemingly impossible task of getting back up from our feet. But once you accomplish that feat, you realize that it was a lesson to learn and ultimately something you can carry with you for the rest of your days. In this sense, your life gains a new meaning through the experience; in the same way that it gives you unexpected hardships, it also gives you unexpected life lessons and ‘miracles.’
This is an experience, a sort of diaspora, encapsulated in the character of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) in the film Spring (dirs. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, 2014). Coming from a tough time in his life, with his mother dying and his work life on a low, Evan finds his way into Italy to get some time off and find himself. In the process of doing so, he meets Louise, who is mysterious and alluring, and who will eventually change the course of his life.
In the first two acts of the film, I was quite confused as to what the film would actually be about. Initially, I thought it would have something to do with Evan’s mother’s death, with the opening sequence framing it in a mysterious, creepy manner. But as time passed, the film transitioned from that difficult time of the main character Evan’s life into some sort of soul-searching romantic comedy horror film. It was odd, seeing a film that was said to be under the horror genre, but not fully seeing that horror genre, as one would initially expect, or having scenes that did not really evoke the feeling of gore or disgust. But at the same time, it gave me a sense of relief [from the mostly tense scenes shown in the past films screened in class] and curiosity as to how the narrative, and the characters would progress.
More than the various appearances of the different creatures that Louise becomes, I think the gratification that is given by this film stems from the central mystery of what she is. Throughout the film, it really captures the audience’s attention, making them wonder “so ano ka ba talaga, ate?!” (this quote comes from an actual tweet I posted while watching the film). Eventually, Evan [and therefore, the audience] finds out, or at least tries to comprehend the answer to this question, commits and then accepts the beauty of Louise. This allure and curiosity found in Evan’s journey of finding himself and love in Spring applies to more than just Louise, it is a relevant and applicable reading of the whole horror genre.
Time and again, we have asked ourselves in horror film class, “what is horror?” and the answer we always end up with is that we never can truly pinpoint what the genre actually is, that it is constantly interesting, mysterious, evolving, and ultimately up to its audience. Regardless, we still watch horror anyway – accepting it for what it is, for the [somehow ironic] ‘beauty’ of the feelings and the senses that it gives us. This is what Mark Jancovich talks about in his article ““Genre and the Audience: Genre Classifications and Cultural Distinctions in the Mediation of The Silence of the Lambs.” Jancovich, through the reading of one particular film, The Silence of the Lambs, argues that horror is “produced by the discourses through which films are understood,” further stating that it is ‘what we collectively believe it to be.’ It does not just end with the audience reception though, as cultural contexts in a certain time period, and taste formation [through critics’ reviews] must also be accounted for. Specifically, reviews are said to set agendas as they feature what is noteworthy in the film; Jancovich says that “articles and reviews can most usefully be understood as one of the ways in which people learn to position themselves within hierarchies of taste.”
This is exactly what we have experienced in Spring, and the entirety of the horror film class. Horror is what we make it to be, especially since we all have different notions and reactions to particular scenes and films. What is scary for some, may not be scary for others, especially comparing casual viewers of the horror genre and fans of the genre. And this whole experience thus forms what we see horror as, and what ‘tastes’ we formulate in the process.
Cliché as it may sound, life, and the experience of watching horror film is indeed a journey. The film Spring perfectly encompasses this journey from one of confusion and being lost, to that of experiencing beauty, accepting things as it is, and looking forward to the next chapter.
Reference: Jancovich, M. (1992). Genre and the audience: Genre classification and cultural distinctions in the mediation of the silence of the lambs.