Released: 2014
Director: Leigh Janiak

Sometimes, people can surprise you in the ways that they change. And one of the biggest life transitions you can go through with a person is marriage – so what happens if the person you find yourself married to isn’t the person you expected? That is one of the central questions Honeymoon seems to pose, a film that draws its horror just as much from interpersonal drama as explicit scares.

The film begins with shots from a confessional-type wedding video, taped by Bea and Paul, who are reminiscing on their wedding choices, their engagement, and their relationship. We then move on to the honeymoon; they’ve decided to forego something big and expensive, instead taking their trip to a small cabin out in the woods, for a secluded and romantic atmosphere. Here I will issue a trigger warning: if cutesy, PDA-infected couples make you cringe, the first thirty minutes might be the scariest part of the film. Bear with it.

One night, Paul wakes to find Bea is missing. After a frantic search, he finds her in the woods, naked and disoriented. She insists she is fine, and they return to their cabin together, simply relieved that Bea seems to be safe and the ordeal seemingly over. This is the point where things start to get… weird. As Bea’s behavior becomes stranger and more alarming, Paul finds himself struggling with a number of questions, uncertainties, and fears about the woman who is now his wife.

There was a lot to like about this movie. While maybe the cute moments in the beginning were excessive, they served their purpose: Bea and Paul are very human and sympathetic characters, and you want to root for them. The shifts within Bea’s personality are understated and quiet, which ultimately makes them more chilling as they become more pronounced. What starts as an occasional word slipping from her mind eventually turns into huge chunks of memory missing, awkward turns of phrase, and loss of knowledge about her own identity. As Paul overhears her in the bathroom, practicing her phrasing on different ways she can turn him down for sex, it’s painful on more than one level. Not only is she perfecting a way to avoid intimacy with him on their honeymoon, but she is also practicing the act of being human. Of course, as this is happening, the tension between Bea and Paul is constantly rising, until it finally reaches its boiling point and results in a painful confrontation.

There’s also an implicit theme of pregnancy in the film. Towards the beginning, there is an affectionate (if somewhat awkward) exchange about ‘taking care of her womb,’ and the question of the couple having children is raised. As the changes start to take hold of Bea, there is clearly an invasive presence that is part of her now – both mentally, as her identity shifts away from her, and physically. There is even a striking moment of body horror where Paul pulls a worm-like, almost umbilical, thing out from between her legs. I think there’s certainly an argument that, when you dig a little under the surface of the film, there is a bit of commentary on motherhood, and how it affects identity and relationships.

Now, the alien element of this is a bit more of a mixed bag for me. I generally don’t find aliens frightening, on much of any level, so that aspect of it wasn’t my favorite. However, I think it helped a lot that the ambiguity of that remained throughout the film. The lights, the invasive presence in Bea’s body, all of these elements were enough to imply their involvement without having to show them on screen, and leaves the events open for other interpretations.

The film ends with an echo of Bea’s earlier statement on the wedding video, “Before I was alone, but now I’m not.” It’s a simple statement, and a moment to reflect on the events of the film, as well as what it means to be part of a unit.

Rating: 3 out of 5. Quiet and atmospheric, a movie to put on when you’re in a thoughtful mood.

Scariness level: Mid range. It’s more of a dark drama with horror elements, and it depends on if you find this kind of story frightening.

Violence level: Low. There isn’t a ton of direct violence, though the confrontation between Paul and Bea had an uncomfortable tone to it. Namely, strapping a woman down while she screams and sticking your hand between her legs comes across as rapey, no matter the context.

Bechdel test: Fails, mostly because 90% of the scenes occur between Bea and Paul only. There is a second woman in the film, but their conversations are limited and focus on their relationships.

Mako Mori test: Bea’s story is the driving force, but it’s mostly viewed through Paul’s perspective. So I’m not giving this a pass either.

Posted on March 11, 2015, in Films and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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