Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #607
Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 12, 2014
Sub-Genre: Body Horror/Mystery
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Leigh Janiak
Producers: Patrick Baker, Esme Howard
Screenplay: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak
Special Effects: Christopher Allen Nelson
Visual Effects: Matthew Bramante
Cinematography: Kyle Klutz
Score: Heather McIntosh
Editing: Christopher S. Capp
Studio: Fewlas Entertainment
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Stars: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Frank Sinatra “Strangers In The Night”
 Heather McIntosh “Honeymoon”
It’s an inescapable fact of life that the honeymoon period simply isn’t destined to go on forever. It’s just not reasonable to expect that any couple can keep up the early momentum as certain things that endear our significant others to us will invariably begin to grate over time and we cannot be expected to know and love every last thing about our partners on commencement, no matter how dedicated we may be. For the record, I’m one of life’s optimists, and cheerfully subscribe to the notion of soul mates. But that’s not to say that I believe it to all be hearts and flowers. Eventually we all have to settle into some kind of a routine and, with any luck, it’s a relatively smooth transition for both parties.
Much depends on how long you’ve had beforehand to become au fait with one another’s idiosyncrasies. Should we rush in like fools, as is often the case thanks to those domineering pheromones, then there’s a fair chance that we could end up coming a cropper further on down the trail. We may consider ourselves vigilant and great judges of character, but there’s little we can do about human nature and this often leads to extreme cases of love themed blindness. It’s all too easy to become jaded and cynical with age but young hearts love nothing more than to run free and, if it all goes tits to the stars, well then that’s what chalking it down to experience is there for right?
Honeymoon marks the directorial debut of Ohio-born filmmaker Leigh Janiak and is best described as a kind of entry-level version of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, only without anything like the profusion of subtext. Not to be confused with Diego Cohen’s film of the same title (also available to stream on Netflix), it positions one suchlike example of love’s young dream beneath the microscope and scrutinizes the bond between them once placed under extreme duress. Call it teething problems if you will although, should you ask newlyweds Bea and Paul for their take, then I’d say they have every right to feel a tad hard done by with regards to the learning curve.
Our “happy couple” are played by Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) and, from the get-go, I’ve got a pocketful of kudos for both of them. You see, Honeymoon is the very epitome of an intimate affair and the entire cast comprises four people so they are consistently under the spotlight throughout and forced to carry the weight of the entire production on their shoulders. Having recently exchanged their vows, Bea and Paul head off to a rustic cabin in the Canadian wilderness, where Bea spent her childhood and it appears a rather idyllic location to spend their honeymoon. Sweet and attentive, they’re pretty much ideally suited to one another and the image of marital bliss.
However before too long, the wheels start to come off the wagon somewhat. During a walkabout they stumble across a small restaurant and encounter one of Bea’s old flames Will (Ben Huber) and his wife Annie (Hanna Brown), both of whom are displaying some pretty odd behavior. Soon afterwards, Bea disappears from the cabin in the dead of night and her fretful beau is forced to play protector and track her down in the nearby woods. When he eventually finds her, she is standing in the thicket naked and disoriented, with no clue how she got there or what she was up to. From heron in, the honeymoon period is most certainly over.
Bea’s conduct becomes increasingly strange and, while she looks and sounds like the girl that he fell in love with, Paul soon picks up on the distance that is growing between them. Struggling with her English to the point where she calls a suitcase a “clothes box” and forgets how to prepare French toast, there is definitely something fairly monumental amiss and he tries everything possible to shake her from her almost trance-like state. Things really start to escalate when he spies her in the bathroom rehearsing excuses to get out of having sex with him and, to top it all off, a strange blinding light is flashed in through the window while they’re sleeping and he becomes convinced that this has something to do with Will.
After paying another visit to Annie, who is looking decidedly the worse for wear by this point, and finding Will nowhere to be found, his paranoia goes into hyperdrive and he begins to fear for both of their safety. Confronting his new wife, he receives yet another dismissive response, and it becomes painfully clear that there’s far more going on here than a dash of emotional turmoil. Janiak draws things out for as far as is humanly possible before moving in for the inevitable sucker punch during a final act that answers some of our questions, while attempting to uphold a level of ambiguity and refrain from going all out.
One word springs to mind when recalling Honeymoon and this is slight. While posing all manner of uncomfortable questions about how much we really know about our significant others, it shows perhaps a little too much restraint when it comes to revealing its mystery. That said, the two leads shoulder the burden remarkably well, and there’s an innocence about their relationship that suggests two children playing at being adults that, once compromised, has the audience begging for an amicable resolution. Leslie’s turn as the confused babe in the woods is both sincere and believable, while Treadaway is no less magnanimous as her increasingly exhausted spouse and the fact that his character begins to grate is actually testament to a job well done as it highlights how quickly attentiveness can transform into clinginess once the skies of young love become overcast.
It’s easy to see why first-timer Janiak is reluctant to throw caution to the wind and provide the kind of conclusion that we will be expecting by this point but it’s harder not to view things as a tad safe when all is said and done. However, there is more than enough guile on exhibit to remind us that the future is bright and, as far as debuts go, Honeymoon is quietly impressive and does more than enough to warrant its existence. If nothing else, it may encourage you to take a long, hard look at your significant others and ponder just how much you actually know about them. In that respect at least, it’s as cautionary a tale as they come. Just remember before you go hurtling headlong into matrimony, at some point during proceedings it is only natural that you’ll see your chosen life mates at their very worst. If you’re ready for that eventuality, then knock yourselves out, but don’t expect Keeper to catch the bouquet.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Dread Factor: 3/5
For the Dread-Heads: There is a palpable sense of creeping dread that steadily escalates as we move into the final third but things never quite reach the point of getting under the skin. I will say this, if you are harboring any doubts about whether or not the woman you love has been replaced by a diabolical doppelgänger, probably best not to go rooting around inside her vagina.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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