Reviewed by: Síofra McAllister
A murky, isolated Canadian lakeshore cottage. A fresh-faced, freshly married couple. A mysterious ex-lover. All ingredients for a pretty conventional horror, yet Honeymoon‘s overarching premise is surprisingly original. However, the secret twists and turns that had the potential to distinguish this horror flick from the rest are delivered in such a ham-fisted and predictable manner that any claim to innovation is lost.
Rookie writer and director Leigh Janiak does hold her own, maximising viewers’ empathy for the characters through clever and occasionally touching dynamics. Motifs of newlywed angst and attendant sexual anxiety are unsubtly – but successfully uncomfortably – portrayed. Honeymoon is, however, heavily reliant on its two lead actors, the couple around whom the plot revolves, and this is almost the movie’s undoing.
In a questionable casting decision, two normally strong British actors – Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones,” “Downtown Abbey”) and Harry Treadaway (Cockneys Vs. Zombies) – play the All-American couple. Hammy and theatrical performances combined with a certain lack of chemistry prompt a few eye rolls within the first twenty minutes, so as the dynamic gets more complicated the distance between the two characters is a marked relief for the viewer – surely not the intended emotional response? Fantastic production values – a darkly atmospheric and authentic setting, a cleverly sparing but provocative score and some well placed and affecting gross-out shocks – can’t quite save Honeymoon from uninspired lead performances and an unsurprising (for horror aficionados, at least) denouement.
Screening at Montréal’s 2014 Fantasia festival, Honeymoon‘s mediocrity is thrown into stark relief as it competes against some extraordinary festival standouts like Faults and The Harvest. Honeymoon provides some gory thrills for viewers who manage to muster up a passing engagement with the sickly sweet couple in the opening scene, but discerning horror fans are more likely to call this movie’s bluff early in the game.