An vulnerable, powerful performance by Honeymoon star Rose Leslie can’t save this messy horror flick from poor characterization and a draggy middle.
Release date: September 12, 2014 (USA)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Stars: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber and Hanna Brown
Running time: 87 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Paul is a creep. Harry Treadaway’s character is the fatal flaw in director Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon that thoroughly poisons the rest of the movie – a huge, emotional misstep which which drains any viewer sympathy from the story. Which is a shame, because this is a movie with a terrific premise, two charismatic and talented leads, that also happens visually capture both the idyll and terror of lovers isolated out in the woods.
We’re introduced to Paul (Treadaway) and Bea (Game of Thrones‘ Rose Leslie) in their maybe a little too-cute wedding video. The couple, clearly over the moon about each other, describe how they first met, how they fell in love, and how Paul proposed. The pair of cute 20-somethings have that kind of untested “us against the world” love that will make perfect fodder for a cabin honeymoon gone wrong.
Now your patience for Honeymoon at this point will depend solely on how much you enjoy a couple of very attractive young people be giddy and goofy in a cabin in the woods. Janiak (who co-wrote the script with Phil Graziadei), wants you to fall in love with Paul and Bea to the extent that their romance comes on a little strong – maybe even forced, at times. They call each other cute little names, frolic and fool around, and there’s a weird kind of theatricality to the performances here (the line readings have the pacing of a play, at times).
Now everything that happens next: Paul finding Bea in the woods nude and disoriented in the middle of the night, strange memory lapses, and some truly icky body horror – would have made Honeymoon a memorable little horror movie if the script didn’t call for Paul to take a left turn into insufferable prick territory.
I’ve been wracking my brain trying to find some thematic significance for it, but around the time that Paul gets his love back home, he becomes this abusive, passive-aggressive beta male. He wants to know where she went that night – was she fooling around with her clearly disturbed childhood sweetheart? Why won’t she have sex with him (even as she’s clearly having trouble remembering crucial details about herself and their relationship)?
I think it was Film Crit Hulk who started a discussion a few months back about how we empathize with character reactions based on whether a reasonable person would do the same (vs. whether we would do the same). And Paul’s behavior really doesn’t fit in either category. I kept hoping that Paul’s behavior would somehow line up with what’s happening with Bea (a clear sexual assault allegory via body horror), but the characterization and plot never really align. Honeymoon quickly begins to feel like a collection of disparate parts and its characters’ fates feel unimportant because really, Paul and Bea aren’t occupying the same movie.