Traditionally a honeymoon is supposed to be the joyful period of time directly following the wedding ceremony to allow the newlyweds to consummate their union and begin the lifelong process of strengthening their emotional bonds. Course many of these elements have been rendered moot modern attitudes towards premarital cohabitation. Still, it remains a great rationale for vacation and to unwind after a prolonged period of arduous wedding planning. When you have something that so universally understood as a joyful and intimate expression of love there is one all too natural to follow; will be made into a popular theme for horror stories. The expectation of happiness surrounding the term serves to intensify the shock experienced by the audience when the inevitable mayhem ensues. The latest implementation of this time on the trope is the 2014 independent film, ‘Honeymoon’. Although I usually refrain from contaminating my experience of the movie by avoiding other reviews until after mine is gone through at a couple of drafts. When I reached this point for this film I noticed something that always engages my curiosity; to considerable discrepancy between what audiences and critics talked about the film. Depending on the direction the difference manifests it is possible to infer some useful perspective. In this case critics had an overwhelmingly high opinion of the movie in the audience. I have seen this many times before and there is a pattern that emerged. The film in itself is well constructed but doesn’t quite fit the anticipation of the genre’s fan base. In the case of horror I am a staunch, old traditionalist vehemently disagrees with what most current fans consider to be the elements that make it good scary movie. I am most impressed the elements of the story all out to simmer, carefully blending together like ingredients of a fine meal. Unfortunately, most of the current popular movies of this category depend on little more than viscerally shocking moment’s overdependence on blood, gore and gratuitous nudity. Most of agreeing with me went through that phase during the time we spent in broken down grind house, decades ago.
The movie opens with a very joyous celebration; the nuptials of a young couple in love, Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie). A video camera follows the proceeding around many shots of various friends and different stages of inebriation in the newlyweds reveling in the moment. Then the moment comes them to pile into the getaway car and drive off for their honeymoon, tin cars clanking behind them. One element of the movie that is always certain to intrigue me is when the filmmaker challenges the socially normal perspective. If it can be done in a very subtle matter that is very much icing on the cake that signals a well-crafted story. There are many little nuances infused within this film that support this assumption but the first that impinged upon my consciousness was during the drive. And most of the movies I’ve seen a couple driving together it is inevitably the man behind the wheel. Here, Bea is driving as Paul sits in the passenger seat joking with her. I know this is a small point what elevates a movie of any genre is the filmmakers is their attention to detail. This is an indication that behind the movie there is someone who not only wants to express their artistic vision but needs to provide something truly entertaining to their audience.
The destination is a remote cottage nestled in the verdant shores of a peaceful lake. Rather sizable body of water is ringed by structure such as this but as noted in the dialogue this is a summer location and the couple have arrived off-season. Paul is his first time there but Bea spent considerable time there as a family owned a cottage. First thing you notice upon entering is that one purpose the structure had been that of a hunting lodge. Huge bear skin is prominently displayed in the walls were amply decorated with mounted heads and other trophies of successful hunts. Another anachronism is to be found in this introduction to the location. It is not quite as rustic as usually associated in a hollow throne with a script description includes the words cabin, words, lake, isolated. There were several rooms within the structure including a full bathroom and the kitchen complete with a microwave. If you come to this movie looking to see an example of cinema such differences will be welcome. However, if you are hoping for another slash and dash flick you already have a suspicion that this might not be the film you are looking for. This is immediately followed by the mandatory moment of passion as they inaugurate the honeymoon suite. Once again the filmmaker has chosen to concentrate on the story rather than given puerile anticipation. The scene is tastefully done and although the movie is rated ‘R’ the intimacy is consistent with what you might see on a CW prime time soap opera. My enthusiasm for this film is steadily growing as is by certainty that people who consider ‘Saw ‘and ‘’Hostel’ as examples of horror films.
During the night very first indication that something is wrong occurs. Although a point was made that their bedroom window faces a wooded area affording considerable privacy, a bright beam of light plays over the room in the middle of the night. The next morning the couple ordered to take a boat out onto the lake. And adjacent storage area contains a small motorboat in the quantity of tackling and other gear. Since Bea grew up navigating this lake, once again she assumes the dominant position in the morning’s activities. The day’s agenda allows for repeat of the Bea decides to bring her new husband the local restaurant. When they arrived appears in the place is closed but it soon turns out its owner, Will (Ben Huber) is present. As it turns out he knew Bea when they were children, perhaps a little teenage romance being inferred. The awkwardly agrees to make them something to eat when his wife, Annie (Hanna Brown) suddenly appears. It is obvious that something is wrong with her. She is greatly agitated and has skin is on the mottled. Later when they return back to their cottage the evening begins as expected but Bea awakens in the middle of the night going out to the woods. Paul, noticing she’s gone follows after her naked in a small clearing apparently in some sort of trance. Once again the lack of salacious content is observed.
As the movie continues forward, Paul notices a distinct change in his wife. She looks the same but they were something definitely off about her general affect, remembering certain general aspects of your life but vague on the details. He finds a few marks the look like puncture wounds high up on her inner thigh. Bea attempts to dismiss them as mosquito bites considering this size and nature is incredulous. The movie moves along picking up pace a little bit as Bea is found writing in a journal on sentences such as, "my name is Bea, my husband’s name is Paul". She continues to pull away from all the getting an increasing amount of details of things you should definitely know. By the time she has a major hemorrhage that she vainly attempts to attribute to her period, Paul knows that normally is something wrong but he is completely clueless as to what it is or how to proceed. By the time we’re shown that Annie is similarly afflicted, Paul has spiraled into full on survival mode. The ultimate reversal here is that the mandatory archetype of a slasher film is the survivor girl, a role that is here assigned to a man.
I cannot in good conscience classify this as a horror film. It nicely disguises itself as such but everything about it points to a taught psychological thriller. This is at the center of the discrepancy between fans and critics how they received the film. Since it is not a horror film those expecting such obviously find themselves greatly disappointed. Comments such as, plodding or painfully slowly paced, have missed everything the filmmaker intended for this opus. Many have become accustomed to equating an isolated lakefront with the serial killers cottage exhibited with as much blood and savagery as possible. There is very little use of blood in this movie, at least not in the way you expected. We watch as copious quantities of blood pour down between Bea’s legs the realism of the situation lends itself to being far more frightening than anything perpetrated by an impossibly supernatural guy in a hockey mask. It comes down to the potential for actually occurring is far more likely the crossing paths with the demonic killer.
The film was directed and co-written by Leigh Janiak along with her partner, Phil Graziadei, have constructed a film that holds together exceptionally well. The screenplay is, as mentioned, never rushed, but rather allowed to proceed carefully building various aspects of the overall plot one upon another carefully measured precision. This is the initial movie both of these nascent talents. A freshman film with this degree success leaves me with a strong sense of great anticipation of how their artistry will develop. Ms Janiak’s directorial style is heavily dependent on imagery. From little details such as Bea looking at a frog with an odd sense of novity to a group of wooden decoys literally ducks in a row, each frame is a product of considerable thought, planning and imagination. As the film progresses it inexorably pulls you in, what you see enhances the mood set by the unfolding of the story. Most are certain to readily recognize Ms Leslie from her pivotal role in the cultural phenomenon, ‘Game of Thrones’, a role that provided her with the acumen to portray a determined young woman. This is a return to the classic psychological thriller that helps to reinvigorate the genre. On the other side of the principle cast, Mr. Treadaway has recent experience in the strange and enigmatic playing Victor Frankenstein in Showtime's ‘Penny Dreadful’