In a genre typically considered “for the guys,” it’s time to give a nod to the ladies. Uterus Horror is a subgenre of horror films that focuses on the uniquely female experience of puberty and the act of coming into your sexuality, using horror elements to emphasize and/or act as a metaphor for that experience. These films are often ignored in theaters but quickly develop cult followings. Columnist Molly Henery, who named and defined the subgenre, tackles a new film each month and analyzes how it fits into this bloody new corner of horror.
Last month we looked at Beverly Marsh in the many iterations of IT. With February barely in the rearview, love is still in the air. Uterus Horror films most commonly delve into coming-of-age experiences for young women related to puberty—yet many films also explore first loves. So, this month we are tackling Spring, a movie that deals with the complexities of both young love and battling with your own biology.
This 2014 film was written by Justin Benson (The Endless, Synchronic), who also co-directed the film alongside creative partner Aaron Moorhead. Time and time again this filmmaking duo has proven they can create uniquely beautiful cinematic works, with Spring being one of their earliest feature films. Spring is a movie told from the point of view of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), a man who retreats to Italy to mourn the death of his mother. He ends up in a small coastal town where he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker). What begins as a typical romance quickly takes a strange turn when Evan discovers Louise has an unusual biological cycle that makes her immortal.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Spring is Louise’s physiology. She is over 2000 years old, yet she doesn’t age beyond her early 20s. We learn that every 20 years, Louise must get pregnant. In doing so, her body goes through a 5-day process where the embryonic stem cells essentially turn Louise into her own daughter. It is a transfixing cycle that allows her to stay the same age forever, yet her physical appearance alters based on the DNA of whoever impregnates her last. In this way, she can more easily blend in with the world around her.
Unfortunately for Louise, there is a more horrifying side to this process. During those five days, she also changes into different combinations of creatures from our evolutionary line. Oftentimes, these transformations cause her to be violent, lashing out and attacking anything that could be considered food, even other humans. She is able to keep these transformations somewhat at bay using embryonic stem cells from other animals such as rabbits, but it isn’t enough.
Louise’s immortality mirrors that of an abnormal menstrual cycle. While her cycle runs every 20 years instead of ever 28 days, it is still dependent on getting pregnant. While women who menstruate bleed for roughly five days if they don’t get pregnant, Louise has to get pregnant so she can use those cells in a 5-day process to maintain her immortality. While I, for one, envy Louise in how infrequently she has to deal with her cycle, when she does, the side effects are much more severe. I might shed my uterine lining and have some mood swings, but at least I don’t grow tentacles and claws, trying to kill anyone and anything within reach. Spring takes that idea of a woman’s cycle to a truly horrifying place.
While Spring is a movie best described as horror, at its core the film is also a stunning romance. Evan and Louise only know each other during Louise’s five-day cycle, but their relationship quickly blossoms into love. Evan falls head-over-heels, but Louise is much older and therefore more skeptical of such feelings.
After 2000 years, Louise knows she has never found love because of what she calls the “oxytocin theory.” Louise knows her mother had the same genetic disposition and her mother became mortal after falling in love with her father and getting pregnant with Louise. This leads Louise to believe if she were to fall in love, she would produce high levels of oxytocin, the hormone associated with love and childbirth. This would tell her body to keep the embryonic cells instead of reusing them, resulting in Louise being pregnant and losing her immortality. Considering this hasn’t happened once in 2000 years, it’s understandable Louise might not believe in love. Yet Evan is determined to show her how much he loves her and convince Louise that she loves him back. As the sun rises on the equinox at the end of Louise’s cycle, we see her with Evan, unchanged and looking like the woman he fell in love with. She finally found a love that was strong enough for her to give up her immortality.
Spring is a movie quite different from most of the Uterus Horror titles I have covered so far. A majority of the films we see feature young women, mostly in their teens, either experiencing puberty or exploring their sexuality for the first time. Louise is over 2000 years old and therefore has experienced all of this many times before. Her strange and unique cycle, while still quite the biological mystery, is nothing new to her. She also has had countless lovers over the years in order to maintain her immortality. Yet the combination of Louise’s frightening cycle, and her first time truly falling in love, delivers what we have come to know and enjoy from the Uterus Horror subgenre.