Red Spring (2017)

*. Red Spring has one of the most misleading DVD covers (and it’s taken directly from the theatrical release poster) that I’ve ever seen. Prominently displayed at the top are alien-looking monsters that are nothing at all like the vampires in the film, who are presented as just regular folks with fangs and some dark eye shadow. Then there are some actors who don’t look like any of the actors in the movie, riding vehicles that aren’t seen in the movie, blasting away against the background of a bombed-out city, which is, again, not seen in the movie.
*. I may have missed where it was explained, through not paying enough attention, but I also couldn’t understand why it was called Red Spring. Judging from the pile of leaves they hide under at the end I think it’s supposed to be Fall, and I don’t recall there being any springs mentioned in the plot. As for the red part . . . blood?
*. There’s no point ripping into this one too much, as they clearly had no budget and not much else to work with. That said, I’ll mention again how important it is for movies with little in the way of resources to stay in their lane. Where such movies fall down is when they try to do too much. So a post-apocalyptic movie about people fighting off zombies, or vampires, is probably a bad decision when you don’t have any money. You can’t do effects, like gore. You can’t do stunts. CGI isn’t a great leveller because bad CGI looks a lot worse than no CGI at all. So a movie made on the cheap just ends up looking cheaper.
*. This is what happens to Red Spring. The big gore scene is just the withdrawal of a bullet from one character’s leg. There’s no violent dismemberment, or bodies discovered with anything more than a bit of blood on their face. There’s a scene where a girl jumps from a motorbike into the back of a van that’s not convincing at all. The opening scene is shot in Toronto but we see almost none of the city.
*. Things might have been better if writer-director-star Jeff Sinasac had set the whole thing in the bunker, without showing the vampires at all. Hey, it worked well enough in 10 Cloverfield Lane. But then the script would have had to have been a lot better. As it is, it’s stiff and unlikely, with lots of awkward bickering and a whole lot of stupid behaviour. This latter even becomes a kind of gag, with characters wondering aloud “How dumb are we?” Plenty dumb, as things turn out. The decision by Carlos to just wander off from the bunker being perhaps the most obvious example. But how else was he going to get killed, and the bunker infiltrated by zombies?
*. The most disappointing thing about the film though, or really the only disappointing thing since it would be unfair to expect too much and so suffer any disappointment, is that despite being such a small, independent production it’s so generic. Apparently the script had been kicking around for over a decade, but even pushing it back that far it would still have been just another post-apocalyptic zombie flick. If you’re doing a small picture anyway why not try doing something a little more original or personal? It’s not like a movie such as this was ever going to be able to compete with all of the big-budget zombie extravaganzas out there anyway.
*. Pauline Kael famously referred to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as “undoubtedly the best movie ever made in Pittsburgh.” Perhaps Red Spring is the best Kincardine has to offer, though I’d still want to know of any competition. Just keep expectations low, and ignore the DVD cover.

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