Slow-burn horrors to be are something of an acquired taste for horror fans, some people love them, and other can't ever seem fully invested in them; I am the latter. I like my horror films bursting with entertainment, and whether that's presented like The Conjuring which finds entertainment through scares, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil which finds it through almost parodying the genre, or The Cabin in the Woods which finds it from beings completely and utterly bonkers! That's what I like, and in my opinion that is what the horror genre is all about. However, when a film like Honeymoon comes along boasting an enthralling premise with a striking cast, it's hard to turn you nose up at something that's main goal is to give the genre something different whilst shocking us simultaneously with familiar conventions. It knows what it is and never shies away from its aim, even if it does create an (at times) inconsistent if not clunky experience that has you in two minds about either loving this film or disliking it.
Perhaps one of the strongest factors of Honeymoon is its endearing characters found within the fantastic Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway. Both manage to portray genuine characters that aid the story by making this fresh-faced relationship so bursting with life and love that it makes their relationship seem authentic and honest. Although at the beginning both characters to me where annoyingly cheesy, once you see the transition on Leslie's character Bae you begin to understand why her characters bubbly and colourful personality was highlighted the way it was, in order to then later highlight her dark transition during the middle act of Honeymoon. The contrast in Leslie and Treadaway during the taut final act is prominent and helps underline the haunting atmosphere that well and surely dominates the film from the word go. On a lighter note however, doesn't Rose Leslie look like a mix between Anna Kendrick from Pitch Perfect and Ashley Bell from The Last Exorcism? I think she could be there lesbian love child.
Along with the strong character development was the great sense of atmosphere and mystery that surely stood out from the moment we were first introduced to the horror elements of the plot, but what emphasizes those elements is the play on familiar conventions of the supernatural genre, and the genuine suspense built from what you can't see as opposed to what you can see. To me, that's the catch with Honeymoon; this generation of film and horror lovers are that used to being exposed to the treat that it becomes somewhat unusual yet more unsettling when we see nothing but the after effects of its presence on its characters. This low-budget approach works completely in Honeymoon's favour, and proves the film to be one of the year's most simplistically effective, and even though it wasn't completely to my taste I can still identify that.
One of the large problems with Honeymoon however is that it gets lost in its own ethos from time to time, and tends to revisit material it previously established time after time, giving the overall film this tedious factor that it well and truly did not deserve. There is never actually a moment were you want to stop watching, but Honeymoon soon begins to feel as if it was the idea of a short film stretched into a feature length around the middle act, mostly due to its repetitive material and lack of progression. I can understand that this is slow burn horror, but when a time comes where the film stops moving all together and ends up feeling stuck on one point, then it isn't exactly doing its premise justice.
The tension is undeniably intact, and the final act is horrific to say the least, but all this is restrained by the lackluster score that neither highlights the horror as it should nor fits to the soft woodland imagery. Its a very one-dimensional score that, if been replaced would have aided Honeymoon a hell of a lot more which is a shame really. Considering this being Leigh Janiak's first feature, you have to give her credit for all that she managed to achieve here with Honeymoon. There is no denying this film will tickle many peoples taste buds due to its beautiful imagery, shocking final act and sharp acting, and those are all things anyone can admire, but the slow-burn approach and lack of horror-esque dominance might throw some genre fans off expecting something a little more than a Rosemary's Baby supernatural hybrid; and I don't know how many people would actually ask for that...
The cast are on point and the suspense is taut yet palatable, but there might not be enough horror elements for genre fans to indulge in with Honeymoon aside from a powerful final act and a creepy yet honest performance from Leslie. Newly-Weds and cabin owners beware!
2014 / 87 mins / Mystery, Supernatural / R
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei
Stars: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown