Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Bloody Images, Sexual Content and Language
Directed by: Leigh Janiak
Written by: Phil Graziadei & Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie & Harry Treadaway
Are you in a committed relationship? You might be questioning how well you know your significant other after viewing the short, sweet and to the very spooky point horror flick HONEYMOON. Working as a character study between two people who love each other and functioning just as well as a creepy mystery that focuses around unseen horrors, HONEYMOON packs a punch. It’s far from the perfect scary movie, but it is an effective little independent effort that’s ideal for the upcoming Halloween season (horror flicks are coming out in droves this fall). This is a mostly well-written story that mostly relies on its performers and a nifty script that feels like a deeply disturbing short horror story brought to the screen.
Paul and Bea are celebrating their marriage by going out to her childhood cabin in the woods (not the most original setting for a horror film, for sure). After a few days of blissful romance, a naked Bea is found in a trance-like state out in the woods. She can’t remember much of what happened to her, but Paul suspects that an intimidating friend of hers (who lives nearby) might have something to do with it. Then again, he could be very wrong and the cause might be something else entirely. Bea is acting strangely and putting a whole lot of effort into making herself appear normal. The viewer is given just enough to know why Paul should be suspicious. In a wise storytelling and directorial decision, the camera never fully leaves Paul’s side. We know what he knows, which lends itself to the strange mystery at work. Needless to say that things get real spooky real fast.
HONEYMOON feels like it would have made for a perfect short film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if the script was actually further developed from a short. There are times where this works against the movie. Even though its running at 87 minutes (not your typical time for a feature), HONEYMOON comes close to wearing out its welcome in a couple of areas. Luckily for the viewer, director and co-writer Janiak does manage to milk some intense scenes with ever elevating suspense, enough to keep me interested. This is a story comprised of strictly two characters and both performers (abandoning their original British accents for a convincing American one) do an excellent job. Rose Leslie (GAME OF THRONES and DOWNTOWN ABBEY) steals the show as a woman who retains certain parts of herself, but also seems to be losing some of her identity. Harry Treadaway (Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL) is heartbreaking to watch as a man trying to keep his love alive for the new side of Bea he clearly didn’t marry.
Fair warning: this next paragraph contains some minor details that could be viewed as spoilers. The biggest problem I have with HONEYMOON is that its fairly obvious what Bea is going through (at least in a broad area). Hints are given that relate to a certain 1956 sci-fi horror film about society losing its identity and that totally applies here. The useless red herrings Paul follows before ultimately discovering the terrifying truth can be irksome, especially for horror aficionados. One could argue that the film bears some homages to ROSEMARY’S BABY (a source of inspiration that the director admits to). I find there is also a strong argument to be made about the film being a horror commentary on the pressures of child birth automatically being expected from a committed relationship.
HONEYMOON is a mostly bloodless film, save for a couple of gnarly scenes (one of which I totally loved for the sheer disturbing nature of it). The ending is a little unsatisfying, but part of that might be attributed to me being able to predict where the film was going for most of the running time. There is a solid amount of tension built between these two character (who are well-developed). It’s a creepy sci-fi horror flick that’s mostly well-done in the sense that it offered some real chills for me. I found myself thinking back on some moments before I fell asleep and shuddering. Job well done in that sense, but a few technicalities (a script that is equally interesting and predictable, a few annoying red herrings, a rushed ending) keep this movie from being truly great. If you’re a horror fan who’s looking for an early scare fix before the flood of genre movies hit this October, then I can safely recommend HONEYMOON.