After reading The Wolfman’s awesome list of Netflix horror picks, I decided to make a point of watching the two films that I hadn’t seen yet – Honeymoon and The Houses October Built. I may not trust him personally (why’s he always hiding his face?), but I do trust that guy’s film recs. I watched Honeymoon because it was the first one that I came across when scrolling through my queue. The god of chance must have been smiling on me, because Honeymoon is pretty rad. End of review. (just joshin’!)
Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) arrive at a cabin on a lake for their honeymoon (hey, that’s the title!). They are young and poor, but they’re happy together and making the best of their meager getaway. They’re good looking, young white people in love, what could they possibly have to worry about?! Oh, I don’t know – crazy stuff happening to Bea? Because that’s exactly what happens. We don’t actually see it happen, but it becomes evident that things aren’t quite right with Bea. She acts VERY strangely – wandering the woods at night, forgetting words, inexplicably bleeding, etc. Paul suspects she may be cheating but realizes too late that the problem might be much larger than infidelity.
Honeymoon puts the viewer on edge through the performances of its leads. Leslie and Treadaway banter and argue and pillow talk like a convincing newlywed couple. When Bea begins fumbling for words and calling everyday items very odd things (suitcase = clothes box), her word finding difficulties push the boundaries of normal behavior enough to make the viewer suspect the worst. Leslie does this seamlessly. Paul’s confusion and frustration are genuine. So is his reticence in unequivocally label his wife mentally ill (which is certainly what she seems). He suspects infidelity or her anger over something he’s done for far longer than the viewer does because he doesn’t want to believe that she’s gone insane or worse. Turns out, it’s worse. Much worse. And though we are privy to more than Paul, we still don’t really know what the hell is going on. We just know that some weird shit is happening. That mystery adds to the tension. And through simple, practical effects, director, Leigh Janiak, makes us squirm and wince at the grotesque changes that Bea is going through. (and the things she does in response) She hits all the right notes that an independent horror film should. Sure, the acting isn’t Oscar worthy. Sure, some of the character logic is flawed. But the film steadily builds the anxiety that horror fans feed off of as it ramps up to a panic-inducing climax. This is especially remarkable considering this is Janiak’s first feature. I look forward to her future efforts.
THE FINAL CUT: Honeymoon is a subtle, character-driven supernatural thriller that keeps the viewer guessing throughout. It succeeds in frightening through the relatability of its characters and a fear of the unknown. Or worse, a fear that what is known is becoming unfamiliar and dangerous.