EXCLUSIVE: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Italy-set horror romance Spring has been acquired by Drafthouse Films and FilmBuff in the first sale out of this year’s Fantastic Fest. The sophomore feature from Resolution co-directors Benson and Moorhead stars Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker, Evil Dead) as a troubled American backpacker in Italy whose romance with a local girl (Nadia Hilker) turns into an unexpected nightmare when her dark, primordial secret threatens to destroy their newfound happiness.

Spring premiered earlier this month at the Toronto Film Festival before making its U.S. debut Saturday night in Austin. Reviews have been strong to the genre-blender described as Before Sunset meets H.P. Lovecraft. Drafthouse Films, the specialty distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse, closed the deal for U.S. rights after watching Spring play through the roof on home turf and with FilmBuff will release it in theaters and on VOD in early 2015.

DrafthouseFilms“We chose Drafthouse and FilmBuff because they run more like a label than a corporation, and we know the release will be a collaboration,” said Moorhead and Benson. “Above all they reward taking risks, making them among the few distributors that dare to be disruptive. We love being subversive while remaining broadly appealing, which is perfectly in line with the Drafthouse/FilmBuff philosophy. Tim League is a hero of ours and we couldn’t be more proud to join the family.” The duo’s minimalist sci-fi debut Resolution was released by Tribeca Films last year. They’ve also been in Austin this week with a segment in V/H/S Viral, which had its U.S. premiere on Friday at Fantastic Fest.

Spring is written by Benson and produced by Benson, Moorhead and David Lawson with 9.99 Films producing in Italy. XYZ Films’ Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer, Aram Tertzakian, and Todd Brown are executive producers. The pic next travels to Spain’s Sitges Film Festival and BFI London. “Upon seeing Spring, we were instantly floored by the strength of the filmmaking, performances, and the film’s fresh voice,” said Steven Beckman, Head of Content at FilmBuff. “We have always been fans of Drafthouse Films and we are thrilled to be partnering together to connect the film with genre, art house, and broader audiences.”

Nate Bolotin and Mette-Marie Katz of XYZ Films negotiated the deal with James Emanuel Shapiro of Drafthouse, and Steven Beckman of FilmBuff. XYZ has also sold foreign rights in the U.K. (Metrodome), Canada (Raven Banner), the Middle East (Falcon), and Japan (AT Entertainment). Moorhead and Benson are repped by Management 360, CAA and Ziffren Brittenham.