I was expecting a very different film, and while I can’t claim that I’m upset about that. I am very annoyed about purposefully misled. This comes from it being pitched as a film about a newlywed couple in a haunted house in the deep dark woods and only about a third of that is correct. So, going in expecting a ghost story and being delivered a very different experience was aggravating. Though, once I got past that I found Honeymoon to be a fairly decent horror film, one more fixated on the unknown and body horror, rather than that of spooks or wraiths.
Honeymoon starts with Bea (Rose Leslie) and her husband Paul (Harry Treadaway) heading to Bea’s family cabin on a lake, where she would spend her summers as a child. Their honeymoon starts off well enough, spending time together and doing all the things one would expect of newlyweds on honeymoon. On their second day they decided to go to the local diner to get something to eat, where they run into Will (Ben Huber), who runs the diner. After explaining very clearly and bluntly that they’re closed, he recognizes Bea as the two were friends during her summer at the lake as a child. Things appear to be on an upswing as he apologizes for his behavior and offers to make them something, but things go sour again once his wife Annie (Hanna Brown) arrives, acting strangely and telling Bea and Paul that they must get away. That night after bright lights shine through their bedroom windows and the power flickers throughout their cabin sets off Paul’s alarm to get up for fishing. After groggily getting his gear and starts to leave, he realizes the error and heads back inside to find Bea missing. After searching the house, Paul finds Bea in the woods naked and disoriented. Bea claims to be sleepwalking due to stress, shrugging off Paul’s questions and dismissing his fears of the situation. Fears the grow as Bea’s behavior grows increasingly strange and the discovery of strange marks on her thighs…
I have a few issues with this film, which disappear after about halfway through the film. First is just how insufferable Bea and Paul are, as they don’t feel human much less a couple in love. The come across as the cardboard cutouts of what people should be rather than what they are and the complete lack of chemistry between the actors doesn’t do anything to help the situation. Though this melts away once the couple in love section of the film starts to wind down and the mystery and dread start to build.
Second is the dialog between Bea and Paul, which comes across stale and stilted. Which once again seems to go away once the film starts to hit its stride by the middle of the film. Though I can’t conjure to mind a film that gets couples in love down in such a way that it doesn’t feel artificial. But here, it’s pretty glaring.
Those two things said, I don’t have much else to hate on. Once Honeymoon sets down the romance and starts in with horror, it really starts working. You’re left questioning what’s going on with Bea and can relate with what Paul is going through. Becoming attached the characters and though I would say being concerned is still a bit of a stretch. Though it quickly becomes apparent that Honeymoon isn’t the haunted cabin is seems to be often pitched as.
The gore in this film is minimal, but what it has is effective. This might be due to my personal revulsion to body horror and mutilation over that of genuine tension. Rather than relying solely on blood, Honeymoon makes due with mood and atmosphere. Two places in which it excels.
Final thoughts, it’s good, though flawed. I would have liked to see a pair of actors with more chemistry in the romance department. But when things start getting rough, Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway step up their game to deliver engrossing performances. Leigh Janiak does some impressive work for a first time director, most notable when it comes to pacing and the use of light and dark during the final act of the film. But would I recommend it? Yes, but be prepared for a slow start. 6/10