By Kristy Strouse
“Honeymoon” (2014) takes what should be one of the best moments of your life and ultimately makes it the worst. For contrast we’re first introduced to the leads of this limited cast: Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) through their wedding video. They’re happy, telling stories about how they met and specific details that make their shared experiences so special. We have an upbeat score and a sense that this couple, in their absolute silliest bliss, know one another well.
For their honeymoon, they decide to head to Canada to stay in a remote cabin that Bea spent a lot of time in when she was younger. Not long after they arrive Paul plans to go fishing in the morning, and when the power flickers he’s up way earlier than he intended. After realization settles in he returns inside to find that Bea is gone. Once the normal amount of time has passed where this could be a trick, he heads outside, panic adequately encompassing, where he finds her naked in the dark. She doesn’t remember what’s happened and her nightgown is gone, with no explanation for what’s happened other than sleepwalking.
Earlier they had met the only other two characters it the film, Will (Ben Huber) and Annie (Hanna Brown). Will is a childhood friend who, with his wife, runs the local restaurant. It’s clear there’s something strange going on between them with his outward paranoia and aggression, so Paul assumes he may have something to do with Bea’s missing time.
Despite her consistent assurance that she is fine, it’s clear she isn’t. After a trauma one may suffer some side effects, including memory loss. However, with the intelligent creative decisions in Phil Graziadei and Leigh Janiak’s script, there are some other sorts of alterations, including a mysterious marking not unlike a bite on her upper thigh, that are clearly abnormal.
“The story takes some interesting opportunities to swap societal gender roles. It is also commendable what’s been done with a limited budget. You don’t need flash or huge sets to institute horror…While it may not be perfect, In Their Own League recommends “Honeymoon” if you’re looking for an imaginative take on the genre.”
They say things change after marriage, but for a partner unaltered- this is terrifying. Especially when you throw supernatural or sci-fi elements into the mix. Early in the film, we catch an invite into their little quirks and cute sayings, and we know them, at least as Leigh Janiak wants us to. So, when Bea starts forgetting meaningful moments or aspects of her personality and their relationship, there is trouble. As more oddities occur Paul catches her practicing in the mirror, trying to appear as the Bea he knows.
The story takes some interesting opportunities to swap societal gender roles. It is also commendable what’s been done with a limited budget. You don’t need flash or huge sets to institute horror. This is a terrific example of that, maximizing on performances and homing in on what makes us innately scared. “Honeymoon” gives us a claustrophobic feeling, with the isolation and emotional heartbreak delivering the crushing effect. Eventually, Paul begins to feel at the edge of his own sanity, questioning this unbelievable scenario. There are some snags in the third act that luckily don’t catch, but a longer in-depth thread could have benefited the finale.
As he investigates further it’s clear that things are bigger than he initially thought. The score changes, darkening, as a continual query is perpetuated. One, that is left ambiguously by the end: what’s happening to Bea? Leigh Janiak creates a film that’s quite visually disturbing at times, ensuring you’ll squirm by the end, but it is also heavy with despair and desperation. Leslie plays her conflict exceptionally, making her transformation (or rather, deterioration) intensely believable. Treadway is also superb in capturing a man breaking apart as he watches his vibrant new bride shift into something… else. The trepidation that slowly squeezes you over the lean run-time is hard to ignore. While it may not be perfect, In Their Own League recommends “Honeymoon” if you’re looking for an imaginative take on the genre.