Leigh Janiak’s SXSW Film Festival horror hit “Honeymoon” is one of many films featuring people who don’t know much about the person they just married. A lot of great horror movies have been constructed around the idea of a protector turning out to be a betrayer, like in Rosemary’s Baby where her husband worked with Satan to evil ends. The thought that your spouse might not be who they say encourages fear and makes for good genre filmmaking. In general, horror films feature a male aggressor – think a husband or boyfriend with a deadly secret. Janiak’s film “Honeymoon” inverts this trope by making the bride the one hiding something. The movie would have been more suspenseful if it had withheld more information from its viewers, but nonetheless, it’s a great genre pic bolstered by excellent performances from its two leads.
Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway play Bea and Paul, a newlywed couple. They’re beautiful, have great chemistry, and are spending their honeymoon in a remote cabin home. They can hike the woods, say hi to the locals and get the privacy they need to start their life together. But as the title “Honeymoon” suggests, something might go wrong…
In the dead of night, strange lights appear in the woods-a sign that something bad is about to happen. Then, our lovely couple has a encounteer with a couple in town that’s reminiscent of “Body Snatchers”. Soon enough, Bea goes sleepwalking and comes back changed. There are marks on her body and she doesn’t seem to be herself. She is not proficient in making French toast or coffee. The couple’s story doesn’t add up, and they can’t seem to keep their stories straight. The woman who used to live in the cabin has been replaced by someone who often denies me. I don’t understand what’s happening.
The main issue with the film is that it’s too predictable. With previous films teaching us about similar topics, we know exactly what’s going on as soon as Bea starts to behave differently. I think Janiak should have let the relationship problems play out more before resolving them. If “Honeymoon” had made us question Paul’s mental state as much as Bea’s change in personality, it would have been a lot better. What if instead of being “different,” Bea was just a moody, erratic new wife? By keeping more secrets until the end, “Honeymoon” could have been improved greatly.
If Janiak had made different decisions, “Honeymoon” would not be as predictable. Although it is enjoyable and well-made, there are areas that could have been better developed. Leslie and Treadaway both give great performances, having to appear in almost every scene of the two-character story set in one location. In particular, Leslie did an amazing job at making the physically challenging scenes realistic and conveying a terrifying situation. “Honeymoon” is particularly scary because you can see the old Bea in the new Bea. It’s not necessarily the drastic changes that happen to people we love that scare us, but rather the slow realization that something feels off. “Honeymoon” does an excellent job of depicting this relatable feeling through its genres filmmaking captures a moment when you know there’s trouble in your relationship.
Now playing on Cinema HD.
Directed by: Leigh Janiak
Written by: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway
Release dates: March 7, 2014 (SXSW), September 12, 2014 (United States)
Running time: 87 minutes
Country: United States