A honeymoon in a cottage in the woods. As far as film set ups go, Leigh Janiak’s debut film’s is a promising one. Honeymoon follows newly weds Bea and Paul on their romantic, rustic getaway following their wedding. With no internet or phone signal, they plan to spend their days fishing, making love and playing board games. For about twenty minutes we walk with them through their romantic cabin, accompany them on their boat trips and sit with them during their gushy kissing sessions. It is only a third of the way into the film that things start to go awry. When Paul discovers Bea walking in the woods in the early hours they both agree that she must have been sleepwalking. Of course, we know better. As the simplistic narrative unfolds so does the terror. Janiak relentlessly heightens the tension and there is no escape from the horrors that await. The film takes a while to get going but it’s all the better for making us wait. When the narrative begins to gain momentum is doesn’t stop. Horror hurtles towards us in a gothic nightmare that isn’t wholly original but one that brings a new approach to the horror film narrative.
I found the characters a little grating in the opening movement but Janiak wants to give us time to get to know them and believe in their relationship. Both Harry Treadaway and Rose Leslie bring energy to their roles. Their on-screen chemistry convinces us to care about this union. What Honeymoon does extremely well is emphasise the struggle going on between man and wife. As well as several jumps and chills, the film also brings with it a complex study of the trust between two lovers, breaking down. The film is simplistic, atmospheric and effective. It sometimes starts to veer towards some clichés of the genre but, most of the time, eventually steers away unexpectedly. Honeymoon grows more comfortable as it picks up speed. A slightly awkward and amateur opening lowered my hopes which were gradually raised and met as the film crashed towards an operatic ending. It is impressive on a technical level, combining a haunting soundtrack with its provocative camera work. Despite the rough edges, this is an impressive debut that the director should be proud of. Honeymoon is chilling to watch. It captures what is great about ‘cabin in the woods’ style horror movies and builds to a harrowing conclusion that will divide audiences.
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