Honeymoon is a very economical production that keeps its cards hidden til they really count. Set all in a few acres of abandoned woodland and consisting of a cast of 4 – the main characters and a briefly appearing pair that they meet during their impromptu honeymoon vacation – the film starts out like a typical horror film of a certain recent variety. There is a cloyingly affectionate couple in the midst of post wedding celebration, whose every word seems a show for the camera. You know things are gonna go wrong. But just what goes wrong and how it does so is an exciting change up from what we usually find.
For a long while there is more of the same mildly irritating back and forth along with some minimal scares – lights flickering, and an encounter with a couple, of which the male is a figure from –‘s past, having an off putting manner about them. Yet along the way, moments of subtle tension rise through the miniscule cracks of newlywed exuberance. A slip, perhaps Freudian, about pregnancy, raises a question of what each of them want in terms of starting a family, and Paul’s reaction to the wilderness seems ever so slight a letdown to Bea. In turn, her reaction to seeing this friend from her childhood lights a spark of jealousy in Paul’s demeanor.
A strange occurrence takes place that finds Bea in a trancelike state; she attributes it to sleepwalking. It has Paul frantically trying to figure out the nature of her change.
For a while, where other films would typically turn up the supernatural effects, Honeymoon keeps things within a very real realm; we get a hint of something off but the maladies that Bea experiences could very well be symptoms of something psychological: she forgets common things and scribbles notes frantically. She acts evasive, turned off to what would normally amuse her. Where we would normally be yearning top reach through the screen and shake the significant other around for being blind to unearthly danger, here his insistence on finding a logical cause is believable.
As Bea’s affliction persists, Paul’s drive to get a conclusive answer about her state intensifies. And yes, Bea’s state does change in nightmarish ways, the body horror all the more heightened for the lack of atmospheric effects and its adherence to realism. What transpires not only succeeds in horrifying, it offers a thoroughly fresh take on the genre premise it eventually builds to, one that is far different than any way that it’s been presented before.
Is there a subtext to the squirm-inducing visuals? It may be so direct as to be right under our noses. The casual interactions between new husband and wife that pervade most of the film show the difficulties of coming to terms with compromise. Is your mind’s will all your own anymore, and if not, how much must one give up? And what if that question is applied to the body? There is also a question of how well you really know someone, a pondering ratcheted up to an obsessive level as Paul tries to figure out what is happening to his wife.
On another note, it cannot be ignored that this is the work of a female director. And in her debut, Leigh Janiak seems to have a playful design on reversing traditional roles of the genre. Bea is definitely he alpha of the couple, domineering a boat and taunting Paul to jump in the water, while he takes charge in the kitchen. As things get deadly it is Paul whose well being we worry for, whom we want to warn not to open that door.
HONEYMOON screens Monday, April 21st, Wednesday, the 23rd, Friday, the 25th and Saturday the 26th. Click here for more info and to buytickets.