Directors Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead Talk ‘Spring,’ Upcoming Projects [Exclusive]

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Spring, the new film from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who brought us 2012’s Resolution, is hitting theaters and VOD on Friday, March 20. Be sure to read our review, but if you just want to know if it’s any good, I’ll tell you straight up. You should watch this one.

We had the opportunity to ask Benson and Moorhead some questions about Spring and some upcoming projects, so let’s get right to it.

iHorror: What were some of the challenges in working on a bigger film like Spring compared to a smaller one like Resolution? Do you prefer the larger or smaller scale?

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead: SPRING was hard because our trailer was too big, they had trouble towing it down to the beach, and being inside it gave Justin the exact opposite of claustrophobia.

But honestly, the challenge wasn’t anything related to creative control, thank God. We had complete control of SPRING. It’s mostly that things expand exponentially in how complicated they get when you involve more people and a larger story. It sometimes seems like it would have been physically impossible to make the film with a hundred dollars less than we had. The budget for SPRING was really modest, though, and as producers we had a strong grasp on where and why it was being spent, plus our producer David Lawson is a demigod. It’s a miracle that a movie like Transformers doesn’t cost 3 billion dollars and either never finish or become a complete mess — maybe Michael Bay should get more credit.

We definitely sit most comfortably at a level where we feel like everyone has what they need and is provided for, but not then by proxy giving up our craving to do as many jobs as we can get our hands on (directing, cinematography, editing, producing, writing, vfx, etc). On Resolution we had fantasies of future work with a legitimate budget, and on Spring we had fantasies of running off with a camera and two of our favorite actors and inventing something. It comes and goes with the tide.

iH: You talk a lot about building mythology with your movies, and with Spring in particular it plays right into the love story backbone. Which idea came first with Spring? The love story or the mythology?

JB & AM: At a certain point it all blends together into story-mush. You know you want to tell a love story, at some point in your life you also get this idea about a very special type of monster that you’ve never seen before, you create characters, make them talk, put them in situations…it’s hard to pin something like that down, and honestly it’s just a lot of hard work to sit at your desk and think something new up. It’s really just a recipe of a lot of hours sweating and thinking hard and trying not to look at the internet, and the script is the result.


iH: One of the lines from Spring that really stuck with me was the one that said something along the lines of “Just because you haven’t seen something before doesn’t mean it’s supernatural.” Can you talk a little bit about keeping the mythology grounded in reality?

JB & AM: As natural skeptics ourselves, we always have to ask what would make me keep thinking after the movie’s over? If we don’t buy the possibility in the natural world, it can only get under our skin for a second. But there’s something about Nadia in the film that you think…maybe. The Universal movie monsters (were-man, zombies, dracula, frankenstein) are all inventions with relatively arbitrary rules. We thought — what if there were a skeleton key sort of creature that inspired all of these, and the features that it took on reminded of our own evolution? A werewolf has fangs, like our ape ancestry. A Creature from the Black Lagoon has scales, like our primordial predecessors (sorry/not sorry for that PERFECT ALLITERATION). That tiny little potentially-coincidental crossover from each of our zeitgeist’s “monsters” was enough to intrigue the inner skeptic and to design something larger.

iH: Another thing I thought you guys did really effectively was using things that secondary characters would talk about, which would maybe influence main character Evan’s thought process down the line. Examples that come to mind are when one of the guys that Evan meets up with in Italy tells a story about a woman who left him, and of course the old man’s mourning of his wife. Can you talk about that?

JB & AM: We are in love with our secondary characters. We have a firm belief that they’re more than a way to salt-and-pepper your story, and too often they feel like a tool by the writer to get somewhere with the plot. For us, our side characters are about exploring another human interaction, one perhaps that can inform the plot a bit, but much more so to deepen our understanding of who these people are.

Also, Nick Nevern is hilarious and we just want to keep him talking, y’know? There’s this idea people have that if one character says or does one thing, one inspirational thing to the main character, it can solve the problem the main character is having. But nothing can solve the death of Evan’s mother and his ensuing listlessness, nothing but time. So here’s this macho guy surrounded by a bunch of guys, all trying to make him feel better rather than empathize because they have no idea how else to do it, but the only way he can really move on is by spending the rest of the movie with him and just watching him do it. Humans are complicated.


iH: I’m a huge fan of The Battery. How did you get involved with Jeremy Gardner?

JB & AM: We met him briefly at a festival in Amsterdam. He thought we were pricks. We thought he was awesome. We met him again in Brazil, he revised his opinion of us, we drank together, lots of late nights were had. Had to fight with SAG to let us cast him. You can see why we did that, he’s amazing. We are opening a timeshare in his beard.

iH: I think Spring might be the most romantic horror film I’ve seen. What romances in horror film history have stuck out to you as particularly noteworthy?

JB & AM: There’s a long history of love stories with horror elements or vice-versa, but we’d be lying to you if we said we watched them all and they inspired the film. We had no idea if a love story with a supernatural side would work, we were just really confident in the script.

iH: What is the status of your Aleister Crowley movie Beasts?

JB & AM: Train’s just about to leave the station!

iH: You said in one interview that Beasts might be the darkest thing you’ll ever do. Can you elaborate on that?

JB & AM: There’s no way to tell an Aleister Crowley story with a happy ending, it’s that simple. That complicated man’s life is not a happy story, and his personality tends to lean toward extremes that many people will have trouble accepting. But it’s amazing in its meanness, its darkness is kind of like that of Boogie Nights (remember what the 3rd act becomes) or There Will Be Blood. We guarantee the film will still be fun to watch, but happy it will not be.

iH: IMDb has you guys pegged for an “untitled UFO cult comedy,” and at one point you said you were considering making an action-adventure film with horror elements, a romance with a horror element and a revenge western. Obviously Spring is the romance. Beasts is next right? Where do these other projects fit in these days?

JB & AM: Beasts is next at the moment. The other projects are stuff we’ve talked about or started: the action/adventure/horror and revenge western are orphaned scripts we’re seeking homes for, the romance with horror element became SPRING, and the UFO cult comedy is the product of our desire to constantly film stuff so we shoot it as we travel abroad and it stars ourselves. Who knows if/how it will ultimately finish, but at least we’re workin’.