My honeymoon was not a horror movie. It involved Domino’s cheesy bread served with champagne, the Saved By the Bell Lifetime movie, and a day ogling baby gorillas at the Bronx Zoo.
In other words, it was pure bliss.
But a horror movie called Honeymoon released the year of my marriage? I’ll take it.
Quick Plot: We open on gooey excerpts from the sweet wedding video of Paul and Bea, a happy young Brooklyn couple celebrating their titular honeymoon in Bea’s parents’ isolated lake cabin. Left without cable, internet, or cell phone service, the happy pair plan to spend the next few days making each other breakfast, swimming in ice cold pre-summer water, and obviously, having lots and lots of married cuddle time.
This being a horror film, things don’t quite go according to plan. Paul catches Bea in an unusual sleepwalking detour to the woods, later revealing some mysterious bug bites and a trail of sticky goo. Shortly after the pair bumps into Bea’s hotheaded childhood friend and seemingly abused wife at the town’s only restaurant, Paul starts to notice Bea acting slightly...off.
Is it an affair? A demonic possession? A dark childhood secret yet to be revealed?
Obviously, I’m not going to tell you, though I will say Honeymoon is well worth finding out. This is a small film, the feature debut from director Leigh Janiak centered almost entirely on two performances. Rose Leslie (aka Ygritte the WIlding) and Harry Treadaway could probably have used an extra American dialect lesson or two, but they establish a sweet and more importantly, believable chemistry that is absolutely vital to selling their plight. There is no doubt in our minds as the audience that these two people are in love, making what befalls them all the more heartbreaking.
What’s also quite impressive about Honeymoon is its minimalism. This is a film clearly crafted with a small budget in mind, and as a result, Janiak wisely generates her atmosphere with nothing more than her actors and a smudge of goo. We eventually get a little Cronenbergian action, but it’s been earned in such a way that we only need a little to sell the horror. Much like another low budget marriage-based cottage-set horror film that I loved, Honeymoon doesn’t try to do anything it can’t. This is a story of marriage, paranoia, and some supernatural darkness that gets paid off well. It’s not feel-good, but it’s definitely, well, good.
So much of Honeymoon depends on its two leads, and while there’s nothing spectacularly unique about Bea and Paul (I’ve lived in New York long enough to know a thousand couples like them), Leslie and Treadaway establish their connection so well that you can’t help but believe in their affection
If you’re working with two British actors who aren’t necessarily experienced with an American accent, maybe you should just...I don’t know, let them be British?
One must first apply the batter before throwing your french toast on the griddle
When stuck in the middle of nowhere, pack A LOT of moisturizer
Hockey is the one with the ice skates
Honeymoon is an extremely solid little genre film that brings a very disciplined energy to its brisk 86 minute running time. I definitely hope to see Leigh Janiak continue to work in the field, especially if it means seeing more of this kind of perfectly balanced tone of intimacy and human to human horror. The movie is streaming on Netflix and makes for a solid and effective time. Give it a go.