A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night.
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★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Hoop-Tober, Film 11 of 31:
A baffling film, to say the least. To me, it's clearly allegorical, but unlike a film such as Denis Villeneuve's Enemy, I'm unable to figure out what this film might represent. With Enemy, after looking back at all of the signs and thinking about the film for a half hour or so, I had already come to the conclusion that it was, loosely, a film about infidelity. It's been about that long since I've finished Honeymoon, and I'm still completely in the dark. Nonetheless, I'll theorize.
Okay, I think... I think, I think, I THINK that this film is entirely a metaphor for the fear of having a child. It is, in that sense, similar in theme to, or possibly even inspired by, David Lynch's Eraserhead. It follows the story of newlyweds, Bea and Paul, who have retreated to Bea's lakeside cabin for their honeymoon. Pretty standard introduction, eh? Well, not for long, and don't worry, I'm not going to spoil anything in this paragraph... but I will say that after a certain something is brought up the morning following their first night of honeymoon sex, the entire tone of the film shifts. No, the entire film shifts, not just the tone. It becomes something much darker, much more sinister, and seemingly allegorical.
Here's the part where I do have to spoil some stuff, because I'm so left-in-the-dark by this film that I must pose a few questions, so...
*SPOILERS BEGIN HERE*
The reason why I think that this film is a metaphor for fear of childbirth/raising a child, is because after Paul brings up the possibility of having a child with Bea - even if his bringing this up was unintentional - she seems to freak out and things begin to go wrong from there. He says to her that they have slept together hundreds of nights and yet never once before had she sleepwalked; well, Paul, maybe that's because you had never brought up the possibility of having kids before the morning prior to her first sleepwalking session (which isn't really a sleepwalking session at all). Having kids didn't seem to be something that Paul and Bea had discussed before that morning, let alone before getting married. Writers/directors begin their narratives at a certain point for a reason; their characters bringing up of this topic of childbirth seems to be the starting point for the metaphor that Phil Graziadei & Leigh Janiak are attempting to communicate to their audience. Plus:
1. The decreased physical affection and sexual dismissals from Bea following the night that the alien-worm-thing was implanted in her vagina remind me of a woman who is possibly expecting a child and is, as a result, becoming more emotionally distant from her husband; he even says to her, "you seem much more distant lately." This doesn't happen with all couples, probably not even the majority, but it is a thing for couples to potentially become a bit more distant with a child on the way. It happens.
2. And this is the more clear arrow pointing toward a pregnancy/fear of pregnancy metaphor; the previously mentioned alien-worm-thing pretty obviously represents an umbilical cord. That was the first thing that I thought of when I saw it (especially because of where it came out of) and it was the first hint leading me in this direction.
So my questions are: what does fear of marriage have to do with ultimately killing one's husband? She says to him something along the lines of, "we don't need you." Is it that she realizes she, as a woman (and artificial insemination aside), needs a man's assistance in the process of creating a child? Does this affect her individuality? Threaten her sense of self? And why aliens - why was that a necessary inclusion in the story to achieve the desired metaphor/allegory? It's all a bit confusing to me... a bit too confusing, which is why I think that maybe I'm overthinking it. Maybe it's just a very vague film that wants to make its audience ponder the possibilities of its plot more than they should. But if that's the case, then that's a problem, because it's never vagueness that a film should strive for, it's ambiguity, and this doesn't seem like ambiguity. So I'm asking for your help - if you might be able to expand upon this theory, please do. I'd love to hear from any of you.
*SPOILERS END HERE*
All of that hypothesizing aside, there are some generally impressive aspects to this film. The cinematography is fantastic; there are some awesome tracking shots - one in particular, following Paul through a dark wood - that greatly impressed me. The acting is great, especially from Harry Treadaway (from Fish Tank, one of my favorite films); the accents are a bit off sometimes, but that's never really something that seems to bother me. The performances themselves are a definite thumbs up. And man, oh man, is Heather McIntosh starting to become one of my favorite up-and-coming composers after hearing only her scores for this and Compliance. She's got some serious talent.
Overall, I do have to recommend this film, mainly because I want you to watch it and try to help me figure it out. There may be more there than what appears on the surface, and I seem to be scratching only a little bit beneath it. Definitely a solid late night horror film that looks good and sounds great; it might be a frustrating watch, but it's always a fascinating one as well.
★★★★ review by Sofa Sinema on Letterboxd
Cabins in the woods may not be ideal for romantic getaways, but they've proved brilliant for the horror genre. Another indie that relies on atmosphere, performance, and creative creepiness to upstage its bigger budgeted rivals.
★★★½ review by Blain LaMotta on Letterboxd
Worst honeymoon ever. A very promising debut from Leigh Janiak. I feel there is a disconnect between both halves of the picture that don't quite coalesce into something greater, but both halves are so expertly constructed that I'm willing to forgive it since it can be seen to serve a thematic purpose. You can practically see this as an almost Body Snatchers like take on the transformative power of the romantic relationship and the fears that go along with it in the beginning. It takes it even further by providing disconcerting insights into how that carries into marriage and can contort the identities of both sides. The person you thought you knew so well might turn out to be something you never expected. The central performances by Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway are stunning to behold, such great chemistry between them. I also found the editing to be quite effective. An ambiguous, yet clear-eyed gem of a horror film that is well worth seeking out.
★★★½ review by Wesley R. Ball on Letterboxd
As I watched Honeymoon, I started to feel that it also could have worked as a "found footage" film. With a few minor story changes, the unique (but overused) medium could have easily found its way into this creative horror story. I'm glad that director Leigh Janiak decided to forgo this choice, however, as the cinematography in the film showcases some of the beautiful scenery utilized in the story.
Honeymoon is a slow burn, building in its tension and momentum until the intense finale. It's a film that relishes in its enigma, giving the audience minor clues as to what is really going on. About halfway through the film, we are hinted that something strange is happening, but we aren't entirely sure of what it is. Bea shows minor slips in her memory: forgetting things that shouldn't be easily forgotten, using different words to describe regular actions like napping. Paul shows escalating signs of worry, especially when mysterious marks appear on Bea's legs.
The film constantly shift its focus, in an attempt to distract the viewer from the hidden truth. I felt that at times the film didn't exactly know where it was going for a brief moment, then quickly brought itself back on track. Some gorgeous cinematography and a stellar soundtrack helped ease the pain that was given through Rose Leslie's shaky performance. She wasn't terrible, but I found her pretty annoying as she kept squeaking in her dialogue. Harry Treadaway was the more convincing of the two, and was a much stronger character actor in the end.
Despite its shortcomings, Honeymoon is a uniquely creative horror film that builds in mysterious tension very well. It's a slow buildup that is accompanied by beautiful cinematography and a tense soundtrack. Some brief moments seem to detract the film from its main focus, and perhaps these were purposely done to distract the audience so that the ending was that much more unexpected. It would be interesting to see a film similar to this done in the handheld camera style, given a few story changes. However, what's here is unique and enjoyable, and it's a tense and thrilling horror film from start to finish.
★★★★½ review by Brandon Hart on Letterboxd
The foreign (very foreign) anxieties of marriage/children/spousal roles to a newlywed couple give them a night of spooks & Brandon loved it.
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