This "Honeymoon" Will Haunt You For Days Review

Director Leigh Janiak makes her feature debut with Honeymoon, an intriguing horror film that introduces us to lead characters Bea (Games of Thrones’ Rose Leslie) and Paul (Penny Dreadful’s Harry Treadaway), via their syrupy-sweet wedding video, during which they make gooey eyes at each other while talking about their disastrous first date at an Indian restaurant and how Paul proposed in a tent made of sheets in their Brooklyn apartment. For their honeymoon, Bea and Paul are heading up to Bea’s old family cabin in Canada, a remote hideaway in the woods where they can fish, swim, eat s’mores and make love to their hearts’ content. During these opening scenes, Honeymoon feels surprisingly like a romantic comedy, and an annoyingly cheesy one at that. Bea and Paul are just too adorable to be true, and their cloying just-married banter makes you long for something bad to happen to them as soon as possible--a bitter palate cleanser to wash the sugary taste out of your mouth before you fall victim to cavities. 

One night, Paul wakes up to find Bea missing from bed. He ventures outside to find her naked and confused, with no clue as to how she got there. Bea laughs it off as a simple instance of sleepwalking, but the next morning she keeps forgetting basic things, like that one should batter bread before throwing it on the griddle for French toast, instead throwing plain slices on the griddle and watching them burn to blackened crisps. She struggles for the right words to describe normal human activities and spends time in the bathroom rehearsing excuses to not sleep with her new husband. Her formerly bright eyes grow increasingly blank and cold, and her legs sport strange red wounds that she explains away as mosquito bites, but look more like the marks of something altogether more sinister. Despite all this, Bea refuses to tell Paul anything more about what happened that night in the woods, setting the sparks of paranoia alight in his brain. When Paul finds Bea compulsively scribbling facts about her identity in a journal (“My name is Bea. My husband is Paul. My favorite color is blue.”), he begins to doubt that the woman before him, despite looking like her, is actually his wife. But if not, then who is she?

Honeymoon is a very slow burn of a horror movie, but it is all the more disturbing for its pacing; the script by Janiak and Phil Graziadei strategically withholds and reveals information in a way that gradually builds tension and pulls you deeper and deeper into the story as it progresses. There are very few big scares of the kind that make you jump out of your seat, but plenty of small, subtly weird moments that will send lingering chills down your spine instead. The film combines good old-fashioned body horror tropes a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers with the terror of watching the one you love gradually slip away from you, without any clue as to why. Once you get used to their distractingly generic attempts at American accents (you know, the kind that all British actors do when pretending to be American), you can appreciate how good Leslie and Treadaway are in their roles. Leslie conveys Bea’s gradual descent from warm, bubbly bride to...something else...in a remarkably restrained yet still very disturbing fashion, while Treadaway’s growing fear for and frustration with the woman he loves is quite heartbreaking. Their rich chemistry at the beginning of the film, while annoying at the time, makes the dissolution of their relationship during the latter half of the film all of the more tragic.

One might be slightly disappointed by the big reveal at the climax of Honeymoon; it is a bit out of left field, and not necessarily scary as much as very, very weird. However, it doesn’t take away from what Janiak, Leslie and Treadaway manage to accomplish during the rest of the movie. The biggest compliment I can give this freaky little film is that it will definitely stick with you long after the screen goes black.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The Blu-ray release of Honeymoon includes interviews with Janiak, Leslie and Treadaway, behind the scenes footage and featurettes, and festival and theatrical trailers.

"Honeymoon" is on sale January 13, 2015 and is rated R. Horror. Directed by Leigh Janiak. Written by Leigh Janiak, Paul Graziadei. Starring Harry Treadaway, Rose Leslie.

Aug
19
2015
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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