WHO DOESN'T LIKE the wish fulfillment of Richard Linklater's classic Before Sunrise? Two hotties meet in Europe, talk each other's lovely faces off while exploring a city, then walk away, all the richer for maybe never seeing one another again. Well, throw a monster into that romantic what-if and you have Spring. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead make no bones about their appreciation of the 1995 romance, even down to the sunrise denouement.

Spring shares the same strong bones as Before Sunrise: The scenery is wonderful, the actors are charming, and their whirlwind relationship is intriguing. But the film never quite achieves the emotional tour de force that Linklater nails—a deficit that Spring fills with creature effects and a winning self-awareness, which prove surprisingly effective. Even though the protagonist is a bit of a bro-dawg, homespun California boy, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) still has some smarts—when hot Italian local Louise (Nadia Hilker) propositions him at a bar, he is dubious of her wiles, not so easily lured into being a late-night snack. She's the monster of Spring, an immortal Cthulhu werewolf vampire beast, but, you know, cute. She eventually gets her way, but so does Evan, who wants something more long term, wooing Louise with good old-fashioned American wherewithal.

It's little unexpected twists like Evan's deadpan acceptance of Louise's monstrosities that make Spring an enjoyable, skin-dripping love story that doesn't insult one's intelligence (unless you count some questionable immortality science—but that's pretty forgivable). In all, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses, because how wrong can you go with a Before Sunrise homage with beautiful Italian scenery and a romance that's full of tentacled proboscises? Wait... don't answer that.