Director – Leigh Janiak, Screenplay – Phil Graziadei & Leigh Janiak, Producers – Patrick Baker & Esmé Howard, Photography – Kyle Klütz, Music – Heather McIntosh, Visual Effects – Locktix VFX (Supervisor – Matt Bramante), Special Effects Supervisor – Barry Davis, Makeup Effects – Christopher Nelson, Production Design – Chris Trujillo. Production Company – Fewlas Entertainment.
Harry Treadaway (Paul), Rose Leslie (Bea), Ben Huber (Will), Hanna Brown (Annie)
Young newlyweds Paul and Bea have married on a whim. They travel up to her family’s cabin for their honeymoon. Once there, Paul starts to notice increasingly strange things. He wakes to find Bea naked in the woods in the middle of the night. She insists she was sleepwalking but he becomes disturbed at finding cuts on her thighs. He then comes across her rehearsing a series of excuses and thereafter she seems to be employing these in avoiding any opportunity for sex. He also notices that she has difficulty remembering things and has to write basic details of their life down in a notebook. Believing that an old childhood friend Will may have raped her in the woods, Paul goes to confront him only to find the same thing is happening to Will’s wife and that Will may have met a sinister end.
Honeymoon is a writing/directing debut for Leigh Janiak, a woman director who had previously only worked in the industry as a producer’s assistant. Honeymoon was shot on a one million dollar budget in North Carolina. It did the rounds of various international film festivals and gained modest attention, even if the majority of people appeared to be left confused by the ending.
I watched Honeymoon based on the write-up it received on a website somewhere. At the outset, you seem set for a standard horror film about backwoods sinisterness either of the supernatural variety a la The Evil Dead (1981) or else one about sinister intruders a la The Strangers (2008). Nothing though quite prepares you for what a strange film you do get, which seems to set out to deliberately twist on all the expectations and leave you guessing.
For almost the entire film, the screen is inhabited by only the two lead actors. These are played the increasingly rising name of British actor Harry Treadaway and Scottish actress Rose Leslie, who came to attention on tv’s Downton Abbey (2010-5) and Game of Thrones (2011-9). The two of them connect together extremely well during the early scenes – it is clear that they are having fun together and that Leigh Janiak has encouraged them to improvise.
This segues into an increasing sense of strangeness and disquiet. Janiak gets a good deal of brooding mysteriousness and just plain wondering what is going on from the mysterious lights moving through the house, the encounter with Rose Leslie’s ex who seems to have an abusive relationship with his wife, Rose Leslie’s vagueries of memory, her sleepwalking and the question of what might have happened when she was found naked in the woods. The strangest of these is where Harry Treadaway accidentally eavesdrops on her rehearsing lines in order for her not to have to become intimate with him, which we later see her playing out. Later he finds she is having to write the basic details of her life down to remember in a notebook.
The last third of Honeymoon enters into a genuinely unnerving place. [PLOT SPOILERS] Here an increasingly upset Harry Treadaway demands to know what is going on as Rose Leslie seems to be losing her memory altogether whereupon he ties her to the bed to force explanations, the most disturbing of which is when she cannot even seem to remember vital events from days ago and makes up a story about how he proposed. Events become even more unsettling like where he reaches inside her and pulls a long writhing tentacle out of her vagina. Or where she starts coming out with lines like “I’m leaving here” and “We don’t need you,” before the disturbingly cool and detached way that she makes him prisoner and takes him for a boat trip on the lake.
The film reaches a baffling ending that doesn’t seem to make any sense or explain much where it would seem to indicate that both Rose Leslie and Ben Huber’s wife Hanna Brown are aliens or have been taken over as they depart amongst the lights in the woods.