We’re told at the start of Rites Of Spring that in that particular season back in 1984, five teenagers went missing including the Mississippi Beauty Queen Tara Grinstead. Then, it stopped as quickly as it began only to commence again the following Spring, and this time one of the victims was Wendy Mullins – an honors student and valedictorian of her graduating class. These disappearances continued for the next twenty four years with no bodies ever recovered.
With this sinister introduction in mind, we find ourselves witnessing the abduction of Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) and Alyssa (Hannah Bryan) from a parking lot in their hometown. Meanwhile, at the same time Ben (AJ Bowen) is kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy local businessman with the intention of extorting money out of him. You can sense Ben’s apprehension over the situation “no-one’s gonna get hurt, right?”, but those around him seem intent on seeing it through.
Switching back to the abduction of Rachel and Alyssa, we find them still alive hanging by the rafters of an old outhouse. The face of the abductor is revealed to be a relatively older man who is keen to assess whether Rachel is “clean”? It’s alluded to that this gentleman, whilst being the abductor, isn’t the person behind these deaths and may merely be facilitating the availability of these girls for someone – or something else.
Back at the extortion / kidnapping, things are going spectacularly wrong with the victim of the ransom demand turning the tables on Tommy (Andrew Breland), one of the crooks. Ben, unaware of this development waits expectantly for the money, but when a double cross comes to light things take a turn for the worst. If that wasn’t enough drama, the fallout of the Rachel and Alyssa abduction finds itself crossing paths with Ben and his crew which in turn unleashes a quite intriguing denouement.
Rites Of Spring is a very ambitious movie combining a heist, a kidnap, sacrifices and folklore! Irrespective of this though, I did find myself getting a little twitchy in the first 30 minutes or so as the movie seemed to be labouring over its exposition, and I was particularly concerned about how this would affect the ending considering the films relatively short run time.
Having said that, it would be churlish to denigrate the film for showing such ambition as there are so many positives. The concept of this annual murder spree provides intrigue from the get go, and the way Padraig Reynolds opted for two separate plot threads I thought was a bold and original move. The script is great with a number of little twists, and the two main leads Ramsey and Bowen lend great performances to the film. Bowen in particular is proving to be a genre stalwart who I really enjoy seeing in films. The villain of the piece I’ve deliberately tried to avoid mentioning in respect of spoilers, but despite it being a concept which can often be tired and predictable, I thought it worked well.
Overall, flawed yet worthy seems to be an accurate analysis of Rites Of Spring. There’s lots more I wanted to know, and wanted to see developed (Reynolds has talked of a trilogy), but generally it’s a great little indie horror movie. Credit too for 101 Films for a dynamite cover for the DVD.
6 out of 10