With so much content being released every year unfortunately that means that from time to time great content will be missed, fly under the radar and altogether just forgotten. Luckily we live in the age of streaming services like Netflix that give overlooked films a second chance at life. I know if it weren’t for Netflix I would have never even heard of let alone had the opportunity to see a little horror gem called Honeymoon. After I discovered the Creep franchise I was in the mood for more small budgeted horror and Honeymoon definitely fits the bill of small budget, big payoff.
Set in a single location, Honeymoon is all about the characters trying to grasp what is left of their shattered psyches as their reality begins to devolve into a nightmare where nothing or no one is who they appear to be. Paranoia is a major player in place that should promote nothing but trust and tranquility. A honeymoon in a family cabin should be a time of great happiness but instead something so bizzare transpires that to call it the opposite of happiness would be to undermine just how truly heinous their situation is. Newlyweds looking to the future with great optimism suddenly can’t look one another in the eye and recognize what they once loved and trusted about each other.
As the husband, played by Penny Dreadful alum Harry Treadaway, tries to create a memorable time with his new wife, Game of Thrones regular Rose Leslie, he begins to notice a change in her almost immediately after they arrive at her family owned cabin.They are isolated in a dense woods complete with a placid lake seemingly devoid of human life. By all appearances they are alone in the off season of a presumably normally busy vacation destination. It isn’t long after a strange night in the woods that things begin to take a turn for the worst. She starts forgetting things, things nobody in their right mind forgets, like her own name or who she is to him. As he insists they leave to get her checked out by a doctor she demands they stay. She claims that any attempt to escape will only anger them. Who is them, he wonders.
As evidence begins to show that she isn’t delusional he must decide to believe what extraordinary things are pointing to or he must live in a state of disbelief which could prove to be something worse than a deadly outcome. He is a man torn between sanity and reality as the two are the same but split at a point creating confusion, paranoia and violence. He must believe his experience in the woods or his new love will likely be short lived. Easier said than done when one’s reality is a hellscape culminating in the loss of someone you hold dear.
A major theme in many of the horror films I love is mystery. In a psychological sense I’m speaking of the films that make you wonder if it’s all really happening. The characters can’t believe their circumstances, their brains can’t seem to function as a result. If it is real and the culprits, in the case of Honeymoon, are in the woods surrounding their cabin, what do they look like? What are their intentions? Not only are we asking these questions but so are the characters. They are our vehicles into a world that doesn’t make sense which is a maddening facet all its own, nevermind the evil closing in at the same time.
Any true savant filmmaker of the horror genre knows the single greatest weapon in their arsenal is the audience’s imagination. James Wan understands this, Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) knows this too. There is nothing they create that can top the horrors concocted in the minds of their fans who come to see the movies they create. It is all about implication and living vicariously through the characters.
A wide-eyed woman staring into the dark as if something nefarious is staring right back at her. What it is or rather what it looks like is best left to the audience to decide for themselves. Sometimes the story demands the evil to be unveiled so then comes the question of how much should be shown? All of it? CGI, or practical? Do you treat it like the 1979 horror classic Alien and douse the antagonist in shadows thus maintaining the allure of what else could be hiding in the dark? It’s all a question of taste from creator to creator and what kind of story is hoping to be made. In the case of Honeymoon, the villain of the movie is never fully revealed. Instead it is made quite clear how cruel and inhuman they can be and through their barbarity we are left with our own interpretation of what they look like.
Honeymoon takes the familiar and flips it on its assuming little head. This combination of genres isn’t new but the approach taken here is most certainly fresh. Character matters most here, it is what’s most noticed when something changes in such a rural place with only two people present. As their little nuances change ever so slightly, establishing them in the first place is made all the more important. It’s something as simple and innocuous as liking pancakes one morning and hating them the next; remembering how to make french toast one day and forgetting the very next morning. These small details add up into character traits and as they alter so to does the character as a whole and by the film’s end what we are left with is two entirely different people manipulated by their environment. In this case, their environment is a living nightmare. Honeymoon is a slow-burning journey into madness that is equally stimulating as much as it is frightening.
Rated R For: disturbing bloody images, sexual content and language
Runtime: 87 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Starring: Harry Treadaway, Rose Leslie, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown
Directed By: Leigh Janiak
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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