This hybrid of indie romance and comedy horror has both charm and chills
What if one of the sweet, grungy lovebirds from Before Sunrise had a dark secret? Not along the lines of a pre-existing partner, or an unsavoury past, but something a bit more… ancient, gory, tentacled and vampiric? Ordinary lives crossing over with supernatural phenomena has been a fashionable trope for more than a decade now, but this is a sophisticated twist on the theme: more delicate and thoughtful than Shaun of the Dead, warmer and darker than Twilight.
Lou Taylor Pucci is disarming and utterly persuasive as Evan, an earnest young American who takes off on an impulsive European adventure after the mother he has been caring for dies. In Italy, trying to impress some boorish drinking buddies, he hits on gorgeous stranger Louise (Nadia Hilker), only to find himself thoroughly intrigued by her ambiguous response, and caught up in something a little riskier than your standard holiday romance. Evan and Louise’s love story takes some massive tonal leaps – between smart, sexy, Linklater-esque indie romance, wild creature horror and knowing genre comedy – but then so did An American Werewolf in London, and that true masterpiece is what this film recalls in its finest moments.
It does suffer from that issue prevalent in fantasy of inventing a tangled set of rules for its alternative reality and then just revealing new twists on them as its plotting requires, which can feel like a bit of a cheat. And one senses that for reasons of either budget or personal taste, writer-director Justin Benson and his co-director Aaron Moorhead favour the chatty, witty content over the more monstery stuff. Still, the two lead performances are delightful, as is the allegory the film spins about what love requires of us, and what it means to accept someone entirely.
Selected release from Fri 22 May.