A large number of filmmakers got their chops, so to speak, in making low budget horror films. Clever filmmakers can make the most of their budgetary limitations and still provide a frightening experience. With Honeymoon, first time writer-director Leigh Janiak, with co-writer Phil Graziadei, have crafted an interesting horror thriller with a minimal budget and limited cast. However, for everything Janiak and company get right, they get something else equally wrong.
The film’s premise isn’t too original. A young newlywed couple, Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway), go to a secluded cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. As we all know, nothing bad ever happens to people in secluded cabins. This isn’t just any newlywed couple, this is the horniest newlywed couple ever. They’re unable to contain their wild passions in the kitchen, the bathroom, or a boat floating in the middle of a lake. One day, the couple visits a local diner owned and operated by one of Bea’s childhood friends, Will (Ben Huber), and his wife, Annie (Hanna Brown). While the couple in unable to get any food, they do get a healthy serving of ominous warning served up by Annie. Early one morning before sunrise, Paul is headed for some fishing. Bea isn’t around. This causes Paul to frantically search for her in the woods where he discovers her bare-assed naked and in an awkward state. From this point onward, Bea start exhibiting bizarre behavior. She attempts to make French toast without battering the bread and making coffee with whole beans. Between Paul’s concern and Bea’s instance that nothing is wrong, the couple is slowly driven apart.
Honeymoon does a number of things right. For one, it isn’t a found footage film – a constrictive cinematic device that is dominating low budget horror. The film also avoids being reliant of jump scares, being much more concerned with creating a creepy, atmospheric sense of dread. The use of long takes to establish characters and setting is refreshing. Headlining the limited cast, Leslie and Treadaway avail themselves admirably. Treadaway, the twin brother of Luke, the hard-luck stoner from Attack the Block, gets stronger as the film goes on. And the same could be said of Leslie, whose performance keeps the mystery intact.
For all its merits, Honeymoon feels determined to undermine its own achievements. Did I mention that couple was horny? Because they are really, really horny, and the film goes out of its way to remind of that fact. I mean, this couple’s genitals must be raw they fuck so much. Speaking of raw genitals, Honeymoon features not one, not two, but three separate instances of vaginal gore. These moments are the only ones featuring gross out gore. By the third occurrence, I was ready to sit down with the filmmakers and, in a thick Austrian accent, ask, “So tell me, again, about your mother.”
Despite its over-reliance on vaginal gore, and despite its wholly unsatisfying ending, Honeymoon does enough things right that the film isn’t a waste. Whether Honeymoon propels the career of Leigh Janiak remains to be seen. As it stands now, Janiak has made an interesting yet wildly uneven debut.
Honeymoon is currently making the festival rounds. Magnet Releasing is handling distribution with plans for a theatrical and VOD release slated for September 17th. The trailer can be seen here.