Blood in the Snow Film Festival Review: RED SPRING (2017)

Vampire lore has always fascinated me. There are thousands of stories, told in books and in films, spanning the decades, and vampire films have become their own subgenre in horror over the years. Widely recognized as the first ever vampire film, Nosferatu (1922) hit the screen almost 100 years ago and just a few years after that, Bela Lugosi would become infamous for his portrayal of Count Dracula in Dracula (1931). Over the past century, we’ve seen countless films about these blood-thirsty night dwellers, some of my favorites include Tom Holland’s Fright Night (1985), the 80’s-tastic The Lost Boys (1987), and more recently, the Swedish film, Let the Right One In (2008). We’ve had countless remakes and retellings of the same stories, and some have even recreated the monsters entirely, from the sparkling, lovesick Cullens up in Forks, Washington to the always-horny, power-hungry fellas like Bill and Eric over in Bon Temps, Louisiana – we’ve met vampires in just about every form that could possibly be thought up. Because of this inundation of vampire stories, the concept as a whole can seem exhausted and not in need of any new additions, but apparently writer and director Jeff Sinasac thought otherwise.

RED SPRING, written, directed, and produced by Jeff Sinasac (who also plays the lead character, Ray) is a “new” take on the vampire lore that we’ve grown to love (or hate) over the years. In this post-apocalyptic story, vampires have destroyed much of human civilization, leaving the limited numbers of survivors to fight through the days and survive the nights against hordes of hungry vampires. Jeff Sinasac wrote the script back in 2003 and after failing to have it picked up by any major production companies, he turned to crowd-funding and launched an Indiegogo campaign in order to raise the funds needed to produce the film. After raising just over $10,000 (and surpassing their original goal of a $6,000), the team took to Kincardine, Ontario to shoot the production. They received an outpouring of support and donations from the small Canadian town, including filming locations, vehicles, accommodations, and background actors. It’s impressive how Sinasac and his team were able to rally for this production to be made, but unfortunately the overall product does not deliver anything new to the genre.

We’ve seen hundreds of films about vampires and even more films about would-be apocalyptic scenarios, so Red Spring really didn’t feel like new territory. The film clearly drew inspiration from Romero-esque concepts, and at one point felt like one extra long, boring episode of The Walking Dead, only the “walkers” are vampires and Ray is a boring, extremely less bad-ass version of Rick. The characters are introduced rather abruptly and it felt as though the audience is expected to come in having already established feelings about these characters that were only just introduced. Sure, they’re all surviving the apocalypse and as a result have all lost loved ones, their homes, jobs, etc., but of course they have because hello, they’re in the middle of the apocalypse. So what makes their story special? What reason do I have to root for their success other than the fact that they’re human beings and I’m not a monster? I needed to get to know these characters before I could become invested in their lives and stories, and because the former never happened, neither did the latter.

Other than constantly running from hordes of murderous vampires, there was never really any rising action, the plot never seemed to move forward, and watching the film felt sort of like a waiting game, they’re either going to live or they’re going to die. With these pretty simple odds, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about. The script was pretty vanilla as well. The writing felt rigid and stunted most of the time, and the delivery was just as unimpressive. The film utilized wide, panning shots of the characters standing around, discussing what the group would do next and some scenes featured close-up shots of quiet, group discussion that felt intimate and personal, set to complete silence – all of which also felt very reminiscent of “The Walking Dead”. However, when TWD uses these devices, the show has earned the weight of a quiet, emotional scene, or the tension an intense group discussion, whereas RED SPRING did not.

I generally try to remain positive when reviewing, even when I’m not a fan of the film, and although RED SPRING wasn’t for me, I know it will be for someone, and I think that’s pretty cool. Towards the end, I started to feel like RED SPRING could potentially become the kind of film that could earn some kind of cult following. It felt campy and ridiculous, but it took itself a bit too seriously. I would have loved for it to have embraced its silliness, maybe even venturing into horror-comedy territory. Ultimately, RED SPRING isn’t a film I plan on ever revisiting, but as an advocate for indie film, it’s pretty impressive to see a guy with a vision make said vision come true, even after it sat on the shelf for a decade and hit some roadblocks along the way. It’s inspiring to see projects like this come to fruition, to see that it just takes some perseverance, strong will, and some support from generous individuals who are willing to help indie films get made.

RED SPRING will see its World Premiere as it opens the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival on Thursday, November 23.

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