If you’re looking for the quintessential body-horror about a marriage collapsing around all manner of icky and existential terrors then seek out Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession. It’s a wonderfully dark and disturbing little film and one that has gone unappreciated for too long. Honeymoon wants to be something akin to this. A film which sees a perfectly happy, beautiful couple slowly eroded by something maleficent which refuses to do anything other than offer a metaphor for marriage until the final reel. Alas this is no Possession, and for that matter it’s no honeymoon.
Newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are heading to Bea’s childhood cabin in Canada. Once there they frolic, fish and do what all recently married couples should do; fornicate. But when they venture to a nearby restaurant they encounter not so happy couple Will (Ben Huber) and Annie (Hanna Brown) who seem embroiled in a form of domestic abuse. That night Bea vanishes into the woods before Paul eventually tracks her down, naked and scared. Convincing Paul it was nothing more than a touch of sleepwalking Bea soon starts to display signs that all is not well as Paul grows increasingly worried as to what is happening to his wife.
Honeymoon has good intentions; it wants to put an idea in your head of how well you can really know someone. So the early scenes of Bea and Paul, sickeningly cheesy and unlike almost any couple ever encountered, offer a picture perfect ideal of blissful marriage. And then things start to get creepy, at least that’s what writer director Leigh Janiak would like. You see there’s an implication that whilst it is Bea who is acting odd it may all be due to Paul’s ‘expectations’ of what marriage is. An interesting concept but one that is never fully realised thanks to a horror concept that neither compliments the theme nor heightens the enjoyment.
So, endless close-ups on nature’s creepy crawlies not to mention Bea’s nightgown being covered in ectoplasm makes it clear that it is, in fact, her who is the issue rather than Paul. You want to see this couple disintegrate but Janiak’s plodding, although visually beautiful, style never allows you to get into their heads. Part of this is down to script issues, in so far that it’s made clear the supernatural or alien force driving the plot is never the metaphor of their broken relationship. Why? Because we know the same thing is happening to Annie and Will. If it were just happening to Bea and Paul the audience could draw its own conclusions making it a far more chilling affair.
Leslie and Treadaway have demonstrated in the past they are good, dependable actors. Here they both suffer early on from poor dialogue but more importantly highly questionable American accents. That said when the goo hits the fan Leslie does broken-trembling-fear well while Treadaway is likeable enough in the wide-eyed horror he offers in the face of his wife’s worrying issues.
Interesting ideas and the occasional use of solid sound design to conjure atmosphere do not rescue this film from feeling frustratingly empty. It isn’t likely to put you off marriage but this Honeymoon is far from idyllic and just a little damp.