Rites of Spring tells two separate stories that come together in the final act. One is a crime story and the other a horror slasher. It is somewhat like From Dusk Till Dawn in this respect. However the clever thing that Dusk Till Dawn does is that the viewers don’t know they are watching a horror movie until the characters know so we get to be just as surprised as George Clooney when vampires appear and start killing everyone. But in Rites of Spring, the stories are interspersed so there is no element of surprise for the viewers when the stories collide. It is also very like The Cottage in that a group of kidnappers accidentally stumble across some murderous hillbillies. What this film lacks with respect to The Cottage is the sense of ordinary people and every day life (if you happen to be in the gangster/kidnapping business) that you get from a reasonably low budget British movie.
Full disclosure: The Cottage and From Dusk Till Dawn are two of my favourite movies. If you think you might like to watch Rites of Spring, I thoroughly recommend watching both of these first. Not that Rites isn’t enjoyable it just isn’t in the same league.
The crime story is a standard kidnapping/double-cross. Some people kidnap the daughter of a rich businessman and ransom her for 2 million dollars. Unfortunately one of the gang is a psycho who intends to kill all the others and take all the money. Don’t you hate it when that happens! Of course he has to act in a gratuitously psychotic fashion so that we know he’s the Bad Guy rather than just being a greedy git who wants al the money.
The horror story starts as what appears to be a standard slasher. A creepy old man abducts a pair of young girls from outside a bar and strings them up in his barn. Creepy stuff ensues with the girls in the barn culminating with one of them being sacrificed to some kind of weird creature in exchange for a good harvest.
This is the point where the stories start to overlap. Girl #2 escapes from the barn of doom and legs it with the creature in hot pursuit. Surprise surprise she runs straight to the hideout where the kidnappers are. The father of the kidnapped girl has arrived and been killed by the gang and the double cross is going down when the girl arrives. Surprise (again) she knows one of the kidnappers, they both used to work for the businessman whose daughter they have kidnapped. In fact, it is her fault that one of the gang members got fired and she is therefore indirectly responsible for him being involved in the kidnapping plot. This is about as much character or plot development as you are going to get from this film.
From here on in it is a standard slasher with the creature from the barn systematically slashing up everyone until only one is left. The creature arrives during a standoff between the gang members and stalks them through the hideout and kills them off. Some survivors leave and run off, straight back to the creepy barn where girl #2 just escaped from and the monster stalks them through the corn fields. Eventually as per the standard formula only one remains to flee, soaked in blood and caked in mud into the cold night as the credits roll.
The most creepy part of this film is that the little girl escapes from the kidnappers and runs into the woods and we never see her again.
I was hoping for some kind of The Cottage type ending where a new generation of barn dwelling psychos is born but was disappointed.