Marriage is some next level stuff. It's new, exciting, intense and scary. For some, it's business as usual. A casual transition from dating to serious commitment to marriage. For others, it's a giant emotional leap. And for Bea and Paul of Leigh Janiak's feature debut Honeymoon, it's a truly unsettling, jaw-on-the-floor experience that no one – trust me – no one wants to personally experience.
Honestly, the less you know about the plot the better as I knew nothing about the film going into it and came out pleasantly surprised.
I'll present the set-up, however: Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway play the aforementioned Bea and Paul, newlyweds who venture to Bea's family lakeside cabin in the woods. Janiak and co-writer Phil Graziadei paint a portrait of two people who sincerely love one another and while they know each other's intracacies, we see there's still room for mystery within the relationship – as evident when Bea gives a tour of the cabin and Paul learns a bit more about her family and her upbringing. There's a definite sense of longevity to their relationshp. They may actually work. It also helps that Leslie and Treadaway – although fighting against their accents – are so damn winsome (perhaps almost to their detriment – what couple is this cute?!) that you rather enjoy spending time with these two within the tight confines of the cabin.
Janiak begins to turn this relationship inside out, and turns the "cabin in the woods" scenario on its head, when an outside force threatens Bea and Paul's connection. Heightened paranoia enters the equation after a night in which Paul finds Bea naked in the woods, unaware of how she got there or why she was out there. From there, it's a classic and clever play on "who or what has my lover become?" there is some gasp-worthy body horror at play.
Janiak demonstrates some wonderfully confident direction for a first-timer, utilizing space, sound design and two very good lead actors as her tools to slowly amplify the tension and mess with your head. The situations she present before the discover of Bea in the woods and after ring true and Paul's reactions are justified, making it all the easier for the us to be affected by the grotesqueries that await in the latter half of the film.
Honeymoon, before our screening last night at SXSW, was described as a "slow burn," however, I disagree. Yes, it peels away at the layers in a deliberate manner, yet Janiak consistently keeps things moving at a good pace, clearly taking delight in deconstructing this beautiful thing Bea and Paul share in the most painful way possible. Post-screening Janiak expressed her interest in staying within the horror genre and I eagerly look forward to see what she does next.