I was really looking forward to Honeymoon, writer/director Leigh Janiak’s debut. Honeymoon stars Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (The Lone Ranger) as Bea and Paul, newlyweds on their honeymoon at Bea’s family’s cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, all is not well, and the honeymoon is interrupted by Bea’s unexplained disappearances in the woods, her increasingly strange behavior, and Paul’s frightening revelations about what’s going on with his wife.
Leslie and Treadaway have great chemistry: together, they make a cute, believable married couple. And, I commend Janiak for giving them a reason to go up to the cabin in the woods where bad things happen (the Bea family connection) instead of just shoving a camping honeymoon in there to make it work. Nice touch. I also really liked the music. It added suspense and mood to the film without being intrusive. It helped to set the scenes as things become more and more tense between Bea and Paul. At times, I actually found myself getting a bit tense while watching this movie. I’m not complaining. The film affected me as a viewer, which is great. Bring on the stress, bitches.
Also, great accent work by both Leslie and Treadaway, neither of whom are from the states. In fact, in real life, Leslie has a Scottish accent, which at worst can be basically like a foreign language. They both had to speak with American accents in Honeymoon, and they both did a good job. I did not have to struggle to understand either of them at any point in time, and didn’t catch any slips, which can sometimes happen when an actor has to talk in an accent different from their own and is struggling with a difficult word or is acting out an emotionally-charged scene. The makeup was also really good. Very real-looking.
So, why the negative-sounding article title? Well, the plot didn’t really work, which was hugely disappointing and a gigantic detriment to the movie as a whole. It dragged in spots, lingering too long on topics it shouldn’t have. I know that all writers and directors want to show the couple being happy together before everything goes to hell, but frequently, they waste too much time on this, and Janiak made the same mistake. We get it. Bea and Paul are adorable and perfect. Now let’s ruin it. Also, I keep wanting to type “Bea Arthur” or “Bea and Arthur” so there’s that.
Furthermore, as the plot goes on and Bea acts stranger and stranger, I found that Janiak didn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities she provided herself to let the reasons for Bea’s odd behavior unfold. Rather, she seemed to prefer that sex be the barometer for Bea and Paul’s relationship, and seized solely on sex scenes (or rather, scenes in which Bea does not want to have sex with her husband) to increase Paul’s concern and drive to find out what’s going on.
In the end, all the missed opportunities and dragging scenes result in Janiak being forced to jam the climax of the 90 minute movie into the last 20-30 minutes. It was like she sort of lost her way in the story and suddenly found it again and tried to wrap it up. Characters that we know nothing about and saw for less than 5 minutes are suddenly back in the story, and everything starts to fall apart all at the same time. And, Janiak fails to show the viewer what’s actually happening in the woods, which I would have liked to see. The film could have benefited from a horrifying scene in which Paul follows Bea into the woods and learns the terrifying secret of what’s going on there. Or something. But, bottom line: there were no breadcrumbs, and the ending seemed weird because throughout the entire movie, I had no clue where it was leading. There’s wanting the viewer to be surprised by the ending (which I support) and leaving the viewer in the dark completely and then throwing a bunch of information at them. That’s what happened here. So instead of being surprised by the ending in a good way, I just ended up feeling like, “Oh, that’s the explanation. Hm.”
I’ll come to my final point now, which is lighting. Please, horror film directors, stop leaving viewers literally in the dark! Some scenes in Honeymoon were so dark I couldn’t see what was going on at all. This didn’t happen with any important scenes, so it’s not that big of a deal, but still, it was a little annoying.
Overall, I had much higher expectations for Honeymoon and the plot, at least, didn’t meet them.