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. Star Anessa Ramsey (The Signal, YellowBrickRoad) is tied up and forced to hear (and later see the outcome of) that unnerving moment, which you’d think would be as bad as it gets for her character… until it gets much worse.
I recently hopped on the phone with Ramsey to talk about defining her character amongst the chaos of the film as well as what it was like to be forced to hang in a sacrificial barn for what seems like an awfully long period of time. Also? She gets to run through a corn field while being chased by a monster – always an iconic horror moment.
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!
You certainly get put through the wringer in this film. Let’s talk a bit about your character and then we’ll probably talk about how long you had to hang from that rope, because it looked uncomfortable.
Yeah, a little bit!
You don’t have much time to spend with your character before she’s thrust into a horrible situation. How did you work to establish her before she’s put through all of this stuff?
Well I feel like Rachel is different for the genre. She’s not an innocent girl who found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. I like the idea that she has screwed up somehow and is aware of it and is wanting to rectify it before the situation gets out of hand. So I had that going for me! I like that they establish her humanity so early. She screwed up. So you actually start the movie off knowing that a little bit and you have to care.
The film switches genres a bit, but your character is exposed to both of them. What was your reaction to the genre switch and what was your reaction to the amount of time you’d have to be hanging in the barn in the beginning?
I like that Padraig is subverting the genre a little bit. I love that horror is becoming so popular and gaining so much momentum, I think it’s great. But I love the idea that he’s taking a thriller kidnap movie and making it a creature feature in a way I haven’t seen before. So I was excited about that. As for hanging up in the barn for so long, I think the challenge as an actor there is to make it interesting and to make it real. While it is a creature feature it’s also a suspense thriller. So what would you do if you were hanging in a barn and you had all of this time to yourself? You would try as hard as you can to get the hell out in whatever way possible. So I just decided early on that I’m not going to just stand there. Half the stuff I say in the barn isn’t in the script. If I’m going to play a real person in a real situation. So as far as the ropes were concerned, I told them to tighten them. I didn’t mind so much. It was a good challenge both physically and as a performer.
How did Padraig guide you through the shoot?
I did a lot of running and screaming and he was very adamant about playing the reality of the situation. He’s an excellent director. I think the reality of the situation was very important to him. You have the kidnapping that’s happening which is a very real situation versus this creature feature and to not treat either of them with some aspect of truth would make both genres clash when they were combined.
What’s it like being chased by a demon with a scythe? You get to run through a cornfield which is one of the most iconic things you can do in a horror movie.
Yeah. It’s funny because the guy who was actually in the creature suit during the majority of the shoot was a very, very nice guy named John who’s a gentle, sweet stunt guy. And he’s a great actor. And my friends are like, “wasn’t it scary being there?” And I’m like, “no, that’s John.” But yeah running barefoot, the cornfield was an adventure. I didn’t realize that corn was so sharp! Those leaves will cut you! A lot! You know when you get in the shower.
You’ve also got The Devil’s Knot coming up, about the West Memphis Three. Can you talk a little bit about that?
It’s very exciting and I think the movie itself is going to gain a lot of attention. My role in particular is very small. I love Jesus and I hate the West Memphis Three. And I yell about it! A lot! It’s great working on a movie like that that I’m so excited to see. And it’s friggin’ hot in Atlanta where we shot it! I can’t believe we lived there for 10 years!