Genuinely gripping but slightly out of its mind, "Rites of Spring" is simultaneously a "Badlands"-inspired Southern gothic kidnapping story and a pagan-worship/human-sacrifice/torture-porn yarn about a grotesque harvest deity and the farmer who feeds him.

Genuinely gripping but slightly out of its mind, “Rites of Spring” is simultaneously a “Badlands”-inspired Southern gothic kidnapping story and a pagan-worship/human-sacrifice/torture-porn yarn about a grotesque harvest deity and the farmer who feeds him. The two narratives can’t possibly intersect, but they do, in a glorious celebration of coincidence. Helmer-writer Padraig Reynolds creates a dizzying pastiche of genre conventions, and he has a terrific actress in Anessa Ramsey, who’s that rare thing in horror, a thoroughly convincing victim. Thriller could click on VOD with hardcore genre fans.

As per opening titles, Mississippi since 1984 has seen a rash of unsolved disappearances, and it’s soon clear why: A farmer (Marco St. John) has been abducting young women and feeding them to the thing (Amile Wilson) that lives in the gooey lair beneath his barn; his latest catch includes Rachel (Ramsey), who’s not going down without a fight. Meanwhile, Ben (A.J. Bowen), Amy (Katherine Randolph) and Paul (Sonny Marinelli) kidnap the daughter (Skylar Burke) of a local tycoon (James Bartz), taking their captive to an abandoned factory — into which the creature eventually chases Rachel. Execution is first-rate; logic is absent.

Rites of Spring

Production

An IFC Midnight release and presentation of a Red Planet Entertainment/White Rock Lake production in association with Vigilante Entertainment. Produced by Wes Benton, Eric Thompson, John Norris. Executive producer, Bobby Benton. Directed, written by Padraig Reynolds.

Crew

Camera (color), Carl Herse; editor, Ed Marx; music, Holly Amber Church; production designer, Mary Goodson; costume designer, Kerrie Kordowski. Reviewed at IFC Center, New York, July 31, 2012. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Anessa Ramsey, A.J. Bowen, Katherine Randolph, Marco St. John, Sonny Marinelli, Amile Wilson, Skylar Burke, James Bartz.
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