US | 2014 | Directed by Leigh Janiak
Logline: A newlywed couple have their lakeside country honeymoon disrupted by the wife’s increasingly strange behaviour.
I love a great debut feature from a filmmaker who has done virtually nothing else in terms of directing. Leigh Janiak’s background has been as a producer’s assistant, but she’s obviously got the directing chops. She elicits solid performances from her small cast, and she knows a thing or two about atmosphere, the paramount element in a horror movie. Honeymoon is every romantic’s worst nightmare.
Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) have travelled to a remote country cottage to celebrate their honeymoon. They are young and very in love. It’s the perfect no frills rustic indulgence; fishing on the lake, lazy continental breakfasts, and plenty of lovin’. What could go wrong? Oh, only like the most sinister of things.
Firstly there’s the strange encounter with the local proprietor of the nearby country restaurant, the intense Will (Ben Huber), and his timid wife Annie (Hanna Brown). It’s quickly revealed Will and Bea knew each other when they were much younger, but that’s not what bothers Paul so much as the weird tension between the husband and wife. It will come back to haunt Paul. Oh yes, indeedy.
The shit hits the fan after Paul discovers Bea sleepwalking in the dead of night out in the woods surrounding the cottage. She is nude and disorientated, her nightie nowhere to be seen. In the days that follow Bea begins to act oddly, and her physical appearance deteriorates. The mozzie bites on her inner thighs that are most certainly not from any insect Paul is familiar with. Bea isn’t interested in making love, and is lethargic and forgetful.
Whilst much of the movie’s action takes place at night, and most of it involves just Bea and Paul (Will and Annie are the only other characters in the whole movie), the tension is slowly ratcheted up as Paul’s paranoia escalates. Just who is Bea really? She looks like his wife, smells the same, tastes the same. But she’s different. Yup, it’s that kind of palpable nightmare.
The final quarter of the movie is when it all goes to pieces, Paul’s dream world falls apart completely as Bea’s new world beckons and takes full control. The suspense becomes nail-biting. The scene in the bedroom when Paul makes a horrific discovery - the body-horror element handled superbly - is one of the more insidious scenes in recent horror movie memory.
Honeymoon – and curiously, the title drips with dread on its own, whereas if it had been The Honeymoon, a comic tone would’ve loitered – is an excellent retro-vibed tale of dark cosmic intervention. A Lovecraftian shroud falls across the sacrament of love. Poor Paul, poor Bea.
Honeymoon screens as part of Melbourne’s Monster Fest, Saturday, November 22nd, 5pm, Cinema Nova, Carlton AND as part of Sydney’s A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Saturday, November 29th, 5pm, Dendy Cinemas Newtown.