Director – Leigh Janiak
Cast – Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I became very excited for Honeymoon when Magnet Releasing shared the film’s initial trailer. It looked like a dramatic thriller at first, which had me uninterested, then they added a horrific twist that had left me hooked on giving this a watch. From first-time filmmaker Leigh Janiak, Honeymoon proved to be a tense dramatic thriller whose horror grows insidiously until the film’s daunting climax. You won’t find a lot of jolts or scares here, yet much to my surprise Janiak still found ways to make this one of the most tense horror films I have seen this year.
When young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway; Cockneys vs. Zombies, “Penny Dreadfull”) and Bea (Rose Leslie; “Game of Thrones”) travel to a remote lakeside home to celebrate their honeymoon, they eagerly anticipate the upcoming joys of their intimate getaway. Their bliss is short-lived though when Bea goes missing late one night, leading Michael on a frantic search for his new wife. He eventually finds her in the woods, naked and disoriented, with no obvious evidence to how she got there or what she was doing. Bea shrugs off the ordeal as sleepwalking, but Paul knows that something very bad happened to his wife that night…and it was not sleepwalking. With Bea’s behavior growing increasingly peculiar and her body undergoing unexplained injuries, their romance soon gives way to terror.
First-time writers Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei do a very good job beginning the film with heavy development of our two leads. With very few characters in the story it is obvious that this film is a character-driven effort, and they do almost too good of a job immersing us into their very intimate getaway. The chemistry between Michael and Bea is amazing and they seem like a couple that cannot be broken, but of course things will change when an unstoppable adversary makes its mark. 17 minutes into the film the very hint of conflict arises when they make their way into town for some food. They notice something very odd with the two folks they run into, but they think little of it and mind their business. Little do they know, they will soon find themselves in the same situation. At the 23 minute mark Michael wakes up to notice that Bea is missing, and after a long and frantic search he finds her, but his worries are only beginning. I applaud the writers for making Michael’s search for Bea a burning one that took four minutes of screen time. This long and drawn out sequence was highly tense and did not have to show much to freak the viewer.
It is after this ordeal that the bulk of the conflict begins to arise. It is obvious that Bea is not herself after the incident in the woods. She can’t complete everyday tasks like making coffee or her signature French toast, and even basic details about her relationship with the man of her dreams are hard for her to remember. The once highly sexual woman is also distant and very insecure with her body – which is now adorned with unexplainable abrasions and bleeding. As the film goes on more and more developments arise, but for the most part we have no clue what is going on until the very end of the film. Personally I enjoy stories like this because they keep us just as confused as the protagonist, who in this case is Michael. We know what he knows and we don’t know what he doesn’t know, and that tactic allows us to place ourselves in his shoes. This is where most of the horror derives from, making this a psychological horror flick with a hint of something else that I cannot say without spoilers. We get our first hint at the other element of horror 63 minutes into the flick, and the closing sequence should fill you in on the rest. Personally, I wanted more from this latter element and felt like it would have made this a scarier film, but nonetheless the writers succeeded at what they set out to do.
This is also Leigh Janiak’s first time directing, and she does an amazing job of bringing her story to life. If you ask me, the direction is what really makes this film great. She does a great job of selling us the characters, and their acting performances are also worthy of high remarks. Michael and Bea are pushed to emotional extremes and actors Harry Treadaway and Rosie Leslie are superb. Janiak also provides immense atmosphere that played a heavy role in the film’s creepier scenes. There are times when something as simple as a bright white light or a crackling within the woods were giving me chills, and I credit solid direction for that.
Overall, Honeymoon is a solid dramatic horror thriller that is sold with an interesting story and great character performances. You won’t find much tangible horror here. Instead, the horror stems from what you don’t know and what you can’t see, and I know some of you out there highly appreciate that. Give this a watch if you do.