Horror is a broad genre and it can cover a wide array of movie types, including supernatural, psychological and physical horror. There is, however, a distinction between horror and events or situations that are horrific. Someone getting run over by a car might be horrific, but it isn’t necessarily scary. If the car was driverless and possessed by evil, then we get closer to horror. So on a scale of horrific to horror, Honeymoon is closer to horrific, but does have enough eerie elements to keep genre fans engaged.
Paul and Bea (Harry Treadaway and Rose Leslie) are a young, newlywed couple who escape to a lakeside cabin retreat to celebrate their honeymoon. Because it’s the off-season, the couple has the lake all to themselves, until they discover that Will (Ben Huber), someone from Bea’s past, and his wife Annie (Hanna Brown) have remained to manage the local restaurant. When Paul decides to get up early one morning to go fishing, he returns to discover Bea missing, only to be found in the woods, disoriented and naked. Knowing the history Bea has had with Will, and witnessing Will’s ill treatment of Annie, Paul fears the worst, but the reality of what’s happened to Bea goes beyond Paul’s worst fears.
Honeymoon is more eerie than scary. While that may disappoint horror fans who are looking for blood, gore, and human victims, the lack of scares is more of a testament to the quality of the filmmakers. This film has a very small cast and an obviously small budget. Rather than force substandard visual effects or jump scares and loud stingers on viewers, the filmmakers decided to offer an actual story and substantive characters who experience meaningful changes. Every filmmaker wants to make a quality film and, on that front, the filmmakers here have succeeded. In their attempt to make a scary film, however, they fell short.
First, the horror aspects are slow to come. The first act is a lot longer than what audiences will probably be used to, and this time is spent simply getting to know Paul and Bea and how close and intimate they are with each other. This is, of course, meant to contrast sharply with what happens to their relationship throughout the film, but enough time passes in the first act without anything creepy happening that genre fans will find themselves mentally adjusting their fear expectations down.
Second, when the horror aspects do arrive, they’re more mysterious than scary. Something has obviously happened to Bea beyond whatever Paul might think Will may have done to her. Bea’s personality changes right in front of Paul. She begins to forget things. She outright lies about other things. She is becoming a different person entirely, but is it scary? Not really. The viewing experience is more akin to watching someone deal with a loved one who has a mental illness, like Alzheimer’s disease. Watching Paul fight to get the woman he loves back from inside the shell of his wife is moving, but it probably won’t trigger any fear responses.
Still, Honeymoon is an enjoyable experience mainly due to the strength of the writing and the actors. As Bea deteriorates, it’s interesting to watch the lengths she’ll go to hide her change and the lengths Paul will go to discover it. The couple also does a wonderful job of being hopelessly in love at the beginning of the film and absolutely without hope later in the film as Bea’s situation becomes more and more dire. Kudos to Rose Leslie in particular for her very natural performance of someone who is not only forgetting who they are, but what they are as she even degrades her speech by fluently using the wrong words during conversation.
Honeymoon is a gem in the world of small budget features. It’s competently crafted and acted without reaching beyond its grasp. It’s a good film; it just won’t keep viewers up at night or make them worry about turning off the lights.