If you are anything like me, the month of October means it’s time to watch some new horror movies. The sad truth of the matter is that 90% of horror flicks made each year are complete junk. Of the 10% with some merit, maybe 3% are TRULY good. I envy some pals who can watch Sleepaway Camp 8 or PG13 teen angst ghost movies and feel entertained. Whenever I get tricked into watching that kind of crap, I can only think to myself “It takes A LOT of people to make a feature-length movie, and these folks are never gonna get that time back”. Yeah, I’m a real barrel of laughs…
Anyhoo, when one of the GREAT ones comes along, where the writer and director and actors all conspire to make a truly vibrant, truly creepy experience for withered souls like myself, I feel like running up and down the street whooping for joy. This leads me to the best new horror movie I’ve seen in 2014, Honeymoon, directed and co-written by Leigh Janiak and starring Rose “You know nothing, John Snow” Leslie and Harry “Penny Dreadful” Treadaway–two British actors who rock American accents for this movie.
Bea and Paul are a young couple who just got married and who have decided to honeymoon in Bea’s family’s summer cottage out in Canadian lake country on the off-season. Their snuggle-bunny time together starts to unravel one night when Paul wakes up alone in the cabin. In increasing panic, he finally finds Bea out in the dark woods, dazed, unsure how she got there. From this point on, things begin an inevitable descent into weirdness as Bea seems increasingly different to Paul, not like the woman he thought he was marrying. I don’t want to give away anymore, because part of the joy of this film is watching it all unspool. But BOY is it effective, and affecting–which seems to be a rarer and rarer element of scary film these days.
Ultimately, Honeymoon has a TON going for it, but I’d hazard to say that the main force behind it’s power is the chemistry between the two leads, the palpable feeling of love and care these two characters have toward each other, and the way even the scary stuff is informed by the basic humanness of everyone involved. Usually in a movie like this, the couple is on the outs or one person is hiding something from the other–but here, these are two really likable people who are put through the wringer, trying to make sense of something completely bizarre.
The direction is 100% assured in all aspects of this movie, both the quiet and the crazy moments handled with full energy. That this is Ms. Janiak’s first film blows me away. Seriously. She was an assistant to producers and such on a bunch of movies before this, so obviously she’s schooled in the technical aspects of moviemaking, but the creativity and assurance is amazing for a first time director.
If you like character-based horror that doesn’t feel the need to shoehorn a bunch of expository crap into the proceedings (there is no forest ranger character who drives up to the cabin to talk about “Them Baker kids who up and disappeared about this time last year”), and which is fully invested in making the impact of the events onscreen FELT by it’s two leads, then this is the movie for you. Warning: it’s really sad and really touching even as things get almost demonically awful.
My friend Kris and I both agree that there’s a scene toward the end that’s so audacious in its bloodiness-meets-compassion-meets-WTF?!ness that it made us both do a little end zone dance. SCORE!!!!
Here’s to Leigh Janiak and to her bright future in film!