Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are young, in love and just married. Unfortunately, they’re also in a horror movie, so heading off to honeymoon at a secluded cabin in the wilds of Canada is probably not the best choice. Their first night there, Paul wakes up to discover that Bea is gone, and then finds her naked, shaken and incoherent in the woods. She later insists that she is perfectly fine, but she seems to have forgotten a great deal about her life, and Paul keeps catching her acting strangely. With no one else around save one other, somewhat suspicious couple, Paul tries to figure out just what has happened to his wife.
Honeymoon is trying to be about something besides just creeping out the audience, and its central metaphor is a strong one. Marriage changes things—it changes relationships, and it changes people. Paul finds the woman he loves quite literally changed overnight. “Just who did I marry?” is a common thought that people experience, and he’s confronted with the question in a spectacularly extranormal manner. Unusually for a horror film, it’s the man and not the woman who is faced with the spouse’s change, although it’s still confined to the question of whether the woman can be “saved” by her man.
Ultimately, though, the parable feels like a wash. It’s another horror film where the metaphor had potential, but there’s not really any parallel between what’s happening in the story and the real-life phenomenon it’s dealing with. The extent to which it fails in this regard is impossible to convey without venturing into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, it’s not a reading that is sustained.
What really hurts the premise is that it’s stretched too thin. Even for a film that’s less than ninety minutes long, there’s a lot that feels like filler. The whole middle section is a redundant cycle of Paul mildly “hrmm”ing at Bea’s strangeness. And that comes after a painfully drawn-out introduction that’s meant to create some empathy in the audience for the characters, but which instead leaves the viewer impatient for the horror stuff to get a move on. The pair’s early activity consists of such mushy ooey-gooeyness that you’ll almost wish terrible things on them. This is especially bad considering that when the movie finally gets down to nitty-gritty spookiness, it’s pretty effective. Director Leigh Janiak and her crew wrench some great dread and creepiness out of pitch-black nights and sinister off-screen sounds.
The two leads give decent performances, though both Brits are hampered by bad American accents, especially Leslie. Like the movie itself, though, they’re caught in a repetitive pattern. Leslie doesn’t get much else to do besides act off and confused, and Treadaway can’t do much else besides react, usually with the same look of loving befuddlement. Back and forth, they go, on and on, padding out the runtime until it’s time for the movie to end.
Honeymoon could have been so much stronger if Paul had taken an active role in figuring out what the heck has happened to his wife much earlier on. Maybe it’s part of the metaphor that the husband is unwilling to face reality for too long a time, but it results in a mire of boredom. And once it finally gets to the payoff, nothing about the machinations of the forces behind Bea’s change makes any sense. Honeymoon is occasionally goosebump-raising, but mostly a misfire.
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writers: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway
Release Date: Sept. 12, 2014