A warped and unnerving horror film from director Leigh Janiak, Honeymoon works as parable and curious fiction. Featuring a screenplay by Janiak and Phil Graziadei, this 2014 motion picture moves with sophisticated purpose and weaves an account that reveals itself one slimy step at a time.
The cinematography of Kyle Klutz works patiently and evades the sort of artifice that can often plague similar projects. This is in large part due to the director’s assurance with respect to big ideas, which results in a carefully-told yarn that takes its audience seriously.
Newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadway) are on their way to an out-of-the-way cabin in Canada. Things are off to a good start as the couple spends time in bed and out on the lake, which is vacant because the summer has yet to arrive. Bea and Paul come across a restaurant and run into the owner Will (Ben Huber), who is up to something weird with his wife Annie (Hanna Brown).
One night, Bea goes missing. Paul finds her standing stark-naked in the middle of the woods. She starts behaving strangely and the honeymoon goes from bad to worse when Paul notices markings on her inner thigh. She’s also avoiding sexual activity. He struggles to understand what’s happening to his new bride, all while weird lights shine through the window.
Honeymoon zeroes in on the sorts of fears that can visit just-marrieds, as novelty can turn toxic thanks to a misplaced word or revealed quirk. Janiak moves beyond the exhuming of a sleepwalking habit and ventures into really peculiar territory, with Bea’s past relationship with Will serving as an outlet for Paul’s growing suspicion.
The movie builds its case by presenting the couple alone. Their wedding is presented via video evidence, with no guests clouding the big day. Bea and Paul banter about Indian food, about how he proposed, about moving on together. They have cute nicknames.
Such happy history is dashed when something goes horribly wrong and Paul ventures through various stages of grief. Watching his wife disappear into the ether of the unknown is like losing his life and he reacts accordingly, plunging through denial and anger until he begins to bargain with a potential escape from his circumstances. Eventually, there’s nothing to do but accept it.
Janiak maintains a mood of disquiet, even when things are going well. Leslie and Treadway never quite seem right. They aren’t necessarily agreeable but they aren’t the sort of detestable twee couple sometimes found in indie horror outings, either.
The question of offspring comes up, as it does, and that draws Honeymoon to a fever pitch. Bea shifts through her own anguish and battles against the rigours of the unknown, all while struggling to put things in perspective. When everything comes to a head, the results are disturbing. She no longer sees Paul as a safe place, no longer trusts her own body.
Honeymoon is a well-constructed horror picture that recalls David Cronenberg while still establishing its own place in the genre. Janiak’s vigilant control makes for inviting, stimulating terror and the performances bolster the realistic edges of this cruel account.