Writer/director Padraig Reynolds’ mixed genre kidnapping slasher/creature feature Rites of Spring plays kind of like a modern day From Dusk Till Dawn in that it totally switches gears midway through (not a spoiler, the film tips its hat to this early on). Of course, there aren’t any vampires and the film is much more serious than that early Tarantiono/Rodriguez collaboration. An early kidnapping segment really struck me with its unflinching brutality, as did some of the film’s more “sacrificial” moments. Rites stars AJ Bowen (The Signal, House of the Devil, A Horrible Way to Die, Hatchet 2, You’re Next) who plays embattled kidnapper Ben Geringer.
I recently hopped on the phone with Bowen to chat about how his character in Rites was a welcome break from some of the more thoroughly evil types he’s played. We also talked about his upcoming film Silent Night Of The Living Dead as well as the status of You’re Next. Oh, and we find out if he’s reconsidered his longstanding aversion to doing a found footage film.
In the film, “A group of kidnappers abduct the daughter of a wealthy socialite and hide out in an abandoned school on the edge of town. But feelings of guilt soon overtake the kidnappers, dividing the group and putting their entire plan in jeopardy. The evening further spirals out of control when their poorly chosen hideout becomes a hunting ground for a mysterious creature that requires springtime ritualistic sacrifices.” The creature, “Wormface”, was designed by Aaron Sims (A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, Wrong Turn, The Mist, I Am Legend, Clash of the Titans, The Thing).
IFC Midnight releases Rites Of Spring July 27 on VOD and in limited theaters. Head inside for the interview!
I just watched Rites Of Spring this morning, so I’m refreshed and ready to talk about it.
You started your day watching Rites Of Spring?
Oh man. My apologies!
The movie kind of has some elements of From Dusk Till Dawn in that it switches genres a bit, but its beginning section is much more serious than that film’s. It’s played very straight. How did you find your character in that? Because you’re the most sympathetic person in an extremely unsympathetic group.
Well, for me the way it all began is I was shooting A Horrible Way To Die when I got the script from Padraig’s manager. And it did really interest me that it was like From Dusk Till Dawn except that it was very straight forward and not trying to be self aware. In this modern era half the scripts that I read are incredibly self aware. It actually reminded me of that Charles Bronson movie 10 To Midnight in that it’s a slasher but it’s this sort of hybrid thing. I was literally choking girls out in Missouri at the time [for A Horrible Way To Die], and when I got the script I was like, “I don’t have to choke any girls out in this!” So as far as I was concerned it was the most heroic and sympathetic character I’d ever looked at possibly playing.
The first conversations that Padraig and I had centered on this guy and how he was sort of getting dragged along for the ride, so we were going from the angle that it was unsympathetic that he allowed himself to get pushed into this situation. But he had to take ownership of the terrible things he had been involved in and try to find a way out of that. And we really keyed into that with the little girl in the movie who was the element that forces him to really see what’s going on. Unfortunately for him this giant monster runs in. Along with my co-star from The Signal [Anessa Ramsey]! And there we begin another movie!
Regarding the movie it becomes at that point, did you find yourself having to shift your character at all? Or was your internalization of him the same?
I was approaching it from the same place. I treated the character the same. When the movie changes genre, it was a matter of dropping the character into that genre. The aesthetic of the film changes, but the character doesn’t have to. The script and tone was so lean that it was just a matter of getting into it.
What’s coming up next for you?
There’s something that I can’t announce. They’ll shoot me. But there’s another one I’m getting ready to do. In a few months I’m going over London and I’m doing a movie with Paul Davis [director of the great American Werewolf In London documentary "Beware The Moon"] and it’s called Silent Night Of The Living Dead. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas movie and I’ve always wanted to do a zombie movie. And on top of that I’m also playing the son of Tom Savini, so it’s pretty rad.
I’ve also written a couple of scripts that are in pre-production. One is kind of a genre film and the other isn’t, so it’s just kind of waiting to see which one goes first. It’s been like a year since I’ve done a movie so it’s just been waiting for things to come out. Doing a little bit of promotion for You’re Next and then waiting to hear when we’ll do more of that.
That would be nice!
Yeah, I know. When Lionsgate and Summit merged it shuffled things around and there’s one studio releasing two studios’ worth of content, so it’s just a matter of figuring out a time I guess. It’s a weird part of the business. Sometimes there’s a quick turnaround, and sometimes there isn’t. But I think Lionsgate is planning on putting it out on more screens than I’ve certainly ever been on before.
Having seen it, I think it could be a fairly sizable hit.
What I selfishly really want is for people to see [Joe] Swanberg act in that.
He’s fantastic in it.
He and Sharni [Vinson] being embraced for that would be great. And I know that there’s such a preconceived notion about Swanberg and the movies he makes, but just seeing him be able to pull off something so broadly comical? I can’t wait for people to see it. It’s one of my favorite performances from last year. I know I’m biased, but I was sitting across the table from him during it and it was literally impossible to act because I was laughing so hard.
Last question. I know you’ve had kind of a long-standing policy against doing found footage films. Has there been any change in that as the genre has progressed?
Well, for the longest time it just seemed like reductive storytelling. But in the past year and a half, I’ve seen that it’s kind of changing. I remember seeing [REC 3], which seemed to change it a bit by doing away with it after the first 15 minutes. But as far as other [found footage] movies go, a lot of the reductive elements seem to be going away and a lot of people are just embracing it as a new way to tell a story. And I like what I’ve been seeing more. And to see people that I respect make some…
I know that in any interview I give I will definitely make myself I hypocrite at some point. I mean I get scripts that are found footage that aren’t always interesting, but the movies I’ve been seeing in the past year are interesting sometimes. Not only genre films, but ones that cross-pollinate like Chronicle, I was very entertained by that. And I would ask people, “is this what ‘found footage’ is turning into?” So in the past 12 months or so found footage has been fascinating me because of how quickly it’s been changing. So I would certainly be more open to it. Chances are, I’ll probably end up doing something like that. Something that I’m as-of-yet unaware of.