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A hit at SXSW and Tribeca, Honeymoon is a microbudgeted horror movie that achieves some genuinely shivery moments. More creepy than truly suspenseful, the story of a honeymoon from hell won’t set the box office aflame, but it will win the affection of genre fans.
The picture begins with newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) driving from their wedding to a remote cabin in the woods that belongs to Bea’s family. The early scenes meant to convey the couple’s wedded bliss aren’t very compelling. While they declare their love and engage in lusty sexual high jinks, we learn nothing interesting about either character. But when a shaft of light zeroes in on Bea while she sleeps, we can tell that something eerie has changed in their idyllic relationship. Before long, things start to deteriorate between the newlyweds.
When they drive to a local restaurant and meet an old friend of Bea’s, Paul feels pangs of jealousy. But that is just the first in a series of strange events. Bea wanders out naked in the middle of the night, and while she claims she was sleepwalking, Paul suspects a sexual tryst. Even more disconcerting: Bea seems to remember less and less of their personal history, almost as if she has become a different person in the same body.
Film buffs will recognize a storyline that goes back at least to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with alien creatures taking on the physical form of the humans they replace. It never becomes exactly clear why Bea has been targeted, but weird fluids begin to ooze from her body, and an increasingly frenzied Paul struggles to figure out what has happened to his wife.
A major flaw in the film is that it takes Paul far too long to decide to flee this isolated setting and seek help from the authorities. By the time he decides to leave, Bea has hidden his car keys, and they are trapped in the middle of nowhere, with no possible rescuers except the equally troubled neighbors at the restaurant. If Paul had acted sensibly and decided to seek help when the strange behavior began, there would simply be no movie.
Despite this lapse in credibility, the film does grow more chilling as the two lose their moorings. First-time director Leigh Janiak builds a subtle but effectively sinister atmosphere. It’s a little puzzling as to why she chose two British actors to star in this American horror story, but Treadaway (who plays Victor Frankenstein on Showtime’s new series Penny Dreadful) and Leslie (a co-star on Game of Thrones) are both very accomplished. Even though Leslie’s British accent does peep through a few times, she and Treadaway bring intense conviction to this familiar tale. Ben Huber and Hanna Brown also are convincing as the only other characters on screen.
Technical credits are solid, and the special effects are simple but inventive. This minor effort has just enough jolts to stir a few nightmares.
Opens: Friday, Sept. 12 (Magnolia).
Cast: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown
Director: Leigh Janiak
Screenwriters: Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei
Producers: Patrick Baker, Esme Howard
Cinematographer: Kyle Klutz
Production designer: Chris Trujillo
Costume designer: Courtney Arthur
Editor: Christopher S. Capp
Music: Heather McIntosh
No rating, 87 minutes
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