Directed by: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.

Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti.

Horror, Romance, Sci-Fi. US 2014, 109mins, Cert 15.


Released on Blu-ray by 101 Films from 30th November 2020.


“Are you a vampire, werewolf, zombie, witch or alien?”


In answer to American tourist Evan’s (Lou Taylor Pucci) question posed to his alluring ‘Italian’ girlfriend Louise (Nadia Hilker): actually none of the above as it turns out in Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s critically acclaimed romantic/sci-fi/body horror hybrid. Think Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE, Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION, by way of Ron Howard’s SPLASH with a healthy dollop of H.P. Lovecraft.

Finally available on Blu-ray here in the UK,(after an inexplicable wait), plaudits are therefore in order to 101 Films for coming up with a handsome package of special features, including 2 separate director commentaries, a HD transfer that showcases the subtle palette cinematography and meticulous framing, and comes replete with a reversible sleeve with alternative artwork.


On the surface it’s a deceptively simple story of boy meets girl, at least initially, before splicing sub-genres into a romantic exploration of the cyclic nature of change, rebirth, renewal and decay.


In California, Evan Lou Taylor Pucci – EVIL DEAD, 2013) gets into a vicious bar brawl after attending the funeral of his mother, his last remaining relative, who he has cared for whilst watching her gradually succumb to cancer. Losing his job as a result of the fight, and with the cops on his trail, on impulse he gets on a plane and heads to Italy. After several days spent in the company of a couple of boozy British travellers (incredibly grating), he finds himself in a sleepy coastal town where he encounters a beautiful woman in a red dress, Louise, (Nadia Hilker, THE WALKING DEAD). Plucking up the courage to ask her out, she instantly offers him sex, which arouses (steady on) his suspicions that this is all too good to be true and that maybe she’s a prostitute.


He takes a job as an assistant to an elderly widowed farmer named Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti), and spends his nights back in town hoping for a glimpse of Louise again. Soon enough he finds her and a relationship quickly develops. Louise is however somewhat of an enigma. After confiding as such to farmer Angelo, Evan is counselled with: “Women, jewels of the world”. Evan will however eventually discover Louise’s true nature, and just what she means when she describes herself as: “half undiscovered science”.


Gradually, as their relationship develops, Benson and Moorhead begin to introduce visual hints and pointers into their widescreen frame. Spiders entrap flies in webs, and there’s a creeping accumulation of dead strewn fauna scattered around the town. Seemingly in contrast however, vines begin to grow rapidly, leaves spring out of brickwork, and flowers bloom and wither. The poster on Louise’s wall warrants close scrutiny too.


The film’s third act goes into overdrive in terms of explanation, revelation and off-the-wall humour. The script throws up all manner of details and mind-boggling reveals which quietly explode like a row of firecrackers. In the interest of not overly spoiling the almost giddy pleasures herein I will not go into them here. I will however quote Evan’s consoling “At least you’ve got the same back story as Harry Potter” in response to Louise’s “You’ve got the same back story as Batman”.


The final sequence is a brilliantly conceived resolution, which lingers long after the end credits roll. Benson and Moorhead manage to pull off a naturalistic and convincing balancing act, on the one hand an engaging portrait of two young people falling in love, (perfectly played by its two leads), whilst on the other, delivering a sprinkling of practical and CG enhanced creature effects to supplement themes and concepts which all blend into a richly entertaining and quietly moving tale.


Extras. - 2 separate commentaries with Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, one from the time of original release (2014), and a fresh reflective 2020 commentary addressing many of the questions posed by audiences since it’s highly acclaimed premiere. Highly rewarding and recommended as the creators provide vast amounts of background detail whilst remaining engaging.

Multiple making of vignettes, two deleted scenes and an extended scene which surely takes the award for best titled extra ever: ‘Wankster Girlfriend Monologue’, multiple takes of the scene where Evan writes Louise a note, an VFX Case Studies (not to be watched until you’ve viewed the film, naturally). There’s also an ‘alternate ending’ (hmm...), a black-and-white silent short about a villager named ‘Filippo’, who appears very briefly in the film, bloopers and a couple of promo videos which round off a very solid package of extras. Recommended.


Paul Worts.


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