After the ceremony comes the ritual.
The life of a newlywed couple is generally fraught with difficulties; learning how to adjust and live with one another, the stress associated with pre-wedding preparations and all the formalities in-between. But the honeymoon phase however is normally a ‘time-out’ period for the newlyweds, providing them with the opportunity to let-loose and relax before reality sets in. First time director Leigh Janiak uses this idyllic period to explore one couple’s unfortunate heartache in her tense, sick, twisted and sometimes-beautiful body-horror flick, Honeymoon.
The film’s premise is pretty straight forward as the feature follows two newlyweds, Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway), as they head to Bea’s remote lake-cabin summerhouse in Canada to enjoy their marital enchantment. From the moment we see them on their wedding video, the couple are completely taken by one other, consumed with love and lust, it’s almost as if the outside world has temporarily faded away. A new found intimacy is clearly present within the pair as they reach the lake house and their relationship is given time to breathe; the couple blissfully soak in their surroundings and each other. At this point the picture could have essentially veered in any direction; it could have been a love story, a drama or even a comedy.
Things begin spiraling downwards after Bea and Paul head to a small restaurant down the road, where they have an alarming encounter with Bea’s childhood acquaintance, Will (Ben Huber); the situation worsens later that night after Bea wanders into the woods and is found in an unusually catatonic state by her distressed husband. Following her sleepwalking incident, Bea begins to act bizarrely, she is unable to perform simple tasks or remember small but critical details about herself or her relationship, and Paul slowly realizes that despite her resemblance to his freshly minted wife, Bea is no longer the woman he fell in love with. It’s evident that the pair’s powerful connection — made apparent in the film’s earlier portion — is no longer visible, and Paul is determined to discover the secret behind Bea’s eccentric transformation.
Honeymoon is a bit of a slow-burn as first-time director Leigh Janiak spends a good portion of the picture allowing us to get to know the key players on a ‘personal’ level, laying down the essential foundation for the feature’s pay-off; we learn about the couple’s story, we see how they finish each others sentences, make breakfast, hang out and just laugh together. Their bond is made clear from the get-go, as it is easy to identify and empathize with our protagonists, ultimately paving the way for an impactful third act. Furthermore, Honeymoon is anchored by two incredibly authentic leads, Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway, who have an impressive grasp of how young lovers interact with one another — although their American accents are a bit problematic. Rose Leslie is a long way from her Game of Thrones (2011) character Ygritte, as she turns in an effortless performance as the sweet red-head Bea, while her co-star Harry Treadaway, Control (2007), goes from the composed husband Paul, to a man on the edge, eventually invoking emotions of anger, bafflement, concern, sadness, and even jealousy, as we, the audience, basically experience the picture’s twists and turns through his jarring point-of-view.
Co-written by director Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei, Honeymoon plays on the inevitable concerns and tensions of the ‘newlywed,’ particularly the fear of seeing someone in an entirely new light or suddenly discovering something awful about a loved spouse. The picture also makes superb use of its almost single location — a secluded, off-season lake resort — adding to the claustrophobic, unsettling mood and suspense, which Janiak builds so well. Obviously sharing parallels to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and possibly even The Shining (1980) — predominantly Jack Nicholson’s slow decent into madness — Honeymoon is well paced, gradually building up to its disturbing David Cronenberg inspired finale. Like many other horror films, the indie’s biggest setback is in its hazy lack of answers, as Janiak withholds vital information within the picture’s gleefully gruesome final act, perhaps leaving certain viewers somewhat unsatisfied.
While its advertising campaign suggests that Honeymoon could simply be another one of those ‘generic’ horror flicks — a couple spend a weekend in a cabin, drink lots of alcohol and eventually someone is possessed — Honeymoon comes as a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t re-invent the genre nor is the film an all-our gore fest, but despite its very slim budget, director Leigh Janiak has confidently crafted a nail-biting thriller — outshining many of this year’s big-budget rivals — ensuring those who take this journey are locked to the screen or sitting on the edge of their seats throughout its lean run time. Aided by two strong performances in Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway, Honeymoon is hopefully the beginning of a flourishing career for all those involved.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Honeymoon is released through Monster Pictures Australia