Where did I first hear about Honeymoon?
I originally saw an article about Honeymoon, and its trailer, on moviepilot.com. The trailer intrigued me without giving too much away about the story. It has an eerie vibe that made me very curious and excited to see this movie. Moviepilot often has articles about films that are coming soon, so I knew I would be unable to see it for a while. Recently, Netflix added Honeymoon to its Horror genre in the watch instantly section.
Honeymoon is an intelligent horror/thriller/science fiction film directed by Leigh Janiak. My thoughts following viewing the trailer included that this film has the potential to be a fantastic creep fest, but it also has potential to lack a real climax and have not much actually happen. To my pleasant surprise, Honeymoon takes the idea of a gradual electrifying buildup, and executes it in a superb manner.
Bea, played by Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), and Paul, played by Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful), are happy newlyweds. The movie begins with them talking to a camera for their wedding video about their first date involving an unfortunate Indian food incident, and how a poorly planned camping trip became a charming indoor fort-tent adventure that led to a proposal. I appreciate the fact that as the movie progresses, the audience is invited into Bea’s and Paul’s relationship. They have this overwhelming chemistry that is believable and realistic. They’re quirky, sweet, and have pet names for each other like “honey bee” and “Pauly poo.” They have this serious passion and light sense of humor that can make any viewer fall in love with them in the way that you wish to tell yourself that you want to vomit from their mushy and annoying romance, but you know they’re just too cute. Horror movies often lack in the character development department, but Honeymoon nails it in this category. It is especially necessary and impressive because they are the only main characters, aside from two supporting characters who later appear only to enhance the plot. Horror films are repeat offenders in giving characters cheap, stereotypical personas and make little effort to make them relatable. It is a good sign that the movie starts with strong characters in order to further appreciate and savor the story.
Bea and Paul decide to spend their honeymoon at Bea’s family cottage with 90’s decor in the middle of the woods. As kitsch and alluring as this little vacation sounds, we know something is going to go wrong. Although I was captivated by the idea, I still thought, “Oh great, another mediocre cabin in the middle of the woods flick.” Even though that sub genre has been done time and time again with movies like The Last House on the Left, Evil Dead, The Strangers, and Cabin in the Woods, when they’re good, they’re good. There is something chilling about a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere that is a repetitive setting for an abduction or slasher intruder storyline. After Bea gives Paul a tour of the cottage, they get situated, and bask in their newlywed romance, they decide to go to sleep. As the audience watches the couple in their dreamy slumber, a strange, bright ray of light comes through the window accompanied by a low and dense sound.
The following day, everything seems to be peachy as Bea awakens Paul by goofily poking his nipple with a mallard duck decoy. They make pancakes and go fishing together just relishing in each others company. Later they decide to go for a stroll when they come across a shabby restaurant. In the restaurant, Bea and Paul have a bizarre and startling encounter with and old friend of Bea’s, named Will. After Bea and Will get reacquainted, Will’s wife walks in the room flustered, telling Bea and Paul that they urgently need to leave. She looks exhausted, with purple bags under her sunken in eyes. The audience gets a vibe that something is not quite right with her and the situation itself.
Later that night, Paul notices Bea missing from the bed and soon finds her standing naked and in a trance in the middle of the forest. At approximately 27 minutes into the film, this is a major turning point for the plot. By this point, I expect a film to pick up the pace; we got an introduction, now we want a juicy story. After the freakish incident, Paul is looking for answers, and without giving too much away, something bad happened to Bea in the woods. Bea is no longer acting like herself and seems like a stranger to Paul. From denying the seriousness of strange markings on her thighs, to no longer remembering how to make French toast or coffee, Bea is not Bea. She gives some (pretty bad) excuses for her zombie-like expressions and pose in the woods like “I must be sleepwalking,” or, my personal favorite, “Nothing, I’m fine.” By this point, a viewer is hoping things start getting more exciting, and although the viewers are totally creeped by Bea’s brief disappearance, more needs to happen. I did say this film is a gradual build up in a smart way, but I do wish there were more scares and startles in this film. About a quarter of the movie felt like a romance film, and although that time was used for character development, I don’t like waiting long for the feature to get scary. The dialogue and character progression make up for it somewhat, but if more scary events happened, I would have given this film a higher rating.
Paul begins to lose his grip on who his wife really is, what she is turning into, and even on himself. Treadaway gives an exquisitely charming performance as a horrified yet loyal husband who will do anything to ensure his wife’s safety and sanity. Leslie portrays Bea in a haunting fashion that evokes fear in not only Paul, but also the audience.
It is clear that Honeymoon did not have a high budget considering the lack of effects. I often think that filmmakers use special effects in place of a plot, which is never how it should be, but it seemed a bit like effects were avoided until the end of the film. It is almost as if the director was trying to distract the audience from the fact that there were little alarming/shocking scenes and no extravagant effects for the majority of the movie with candy or a shiny object, or in this case a strong character relationship. Despite this, Janiak executes this plot wonderfully, with a strong bond between the characters and an eerie aura enticing the audience all the way through. Nobody said marriage was easy, but Paul and Bea find out how challenging and unnerving it can be to trust and hold onto your betrothed.
Is Honeymoon worth a watch?
Yes! Honeymoon is worth watching if you are into mild horror flicks.
You can watch the trailer here: