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honeymoon 2014

Honeymoon has all the components that make my ideal horror movie. It has great actors. Strong, sympathetic characters. A creeping, pervasive sense of dread and melancholy. Mystery. Imagination. Gorgeous cinematography.

It stars Rose “You Know Nothing John Snow” Leslie and Harry Treadaway, as Bea and Paul respectively. Newly-weds honeymooning at Bea’s family holiday home – a lonely cottage in the woods, during the off-season.

The inevitable sinister turn of events comes after Bea sleepwalks into the woods and awakens naked and screaming.

Initially, Honeymoon put me in mind of a poor man’s Antichrist. But that similarity turned out to be very superficial indeed. I had thought throughout that Honeymoon would have a subtext or theme, but there really is none to be found.

The plot can be summed up very simply – which is exactly what I’m going to do. So stop reading right now if you don’t want spoilers.

Bea was attacked and impregnated by creatures (presumably aliens) during her excursion into the woods. She is aware of what has happened to her – and she is slowly being taken over by these creatures – transforming both physically and mentally. However, she wants to have her time with Paul before she has to join these creatures.

Ultimately Bea kills Paul, drowning him in the lake in a misguided attempt to keep him hidden from the creatures. She doesn’t seem to comprehend that her actions will kill him. Along the way the plot is stretched out by the introduction of Will and Annie – the only other characters we meet. Bea has a history with Will, which causes Paul to become jealous and muddies the water with regards to what happened to Bea in the woods.

Throughout the film, I suspected a twist – but there is none. We are invited to suspect that Bea has been raped by aliens – and that is exactly what has happened. When Bea pleads with Paul just to enjoy the time they have together – it seems obvious to everyone (except poor Paul) that she is not talking merely about their week away, but something infinitely more final.

What we witness then, in a subtle yet peculiarly voyeuristic way, is the slow inevitable destruction of a beautiful, loving young couple. They have their faults – Bea is a bit flirty and insensitive, Paul is somewhat jealous and insecure. But this just helps us identify with them even more, as flawed individuals.

But what then, really, is the point? Is this film aimed at those who might enjoy being depressed by a visually beautiful and tenderly made film? Is it for those who enjoy discovering that there is no mystery – everything is exactly what we suspected it was from the outset? The slow, inevitable (if very pretty) trudge to the conclusion, feels ultimately so pointless. Very sad. But pointless.

And make no mistake – the film is slow. It builds tension very slowly – particularly for a film which is rather short. It creates plenty of pathos and isn’t full. But you reach the end feeling that it took quite a long time to tell you very little – and certainly didn’t answer any of the big questions.

At the same time it isn’t afraid to unleash the visual effects. Bea’s transformation is well handled – the make up is original and subtle. But the film’s one gory scene seems peculiarly at odds with everything else – as Paul tears monstrous barbed tentacles from between Bea’s legs.

As I’ve said, Honeymoon is a short movie. And it feels – at times – as though it perhaps wanted to be a longer movie. Did it at one point have underlying themes and a subtext – which somehow got lost along the way? Was Bea – Honey Bee – perhaps meant to symbolise the insect becoming lost within the hive? Was there more to Bea’s decision to drown Paul less about her dwindling attachment to humanity, and more to do with the redundancy of the male after the act of procreation? If that subtext IS in there, it’s very bloody subtle indeed.

Or – in a postmodernist world – am I too obsessed with looking for hidden meaning and cheap twists? Isn’t it enough that this movie is just what it is?

Well, no. For one – the introduction of ALIENS as an incidental plot mechanism is a killer. If we were to learn anything from M. Night Shymalan’s Signs it should be that ALIENS are NOT acceptable FILLER. You can’t take something as big as an alien abduction, then sideline it for a story about the destruction of a relationship. However well realised that story might be – your audience is going to be sitting there going “Yeah…but…fucking ALIENS?” It can’t work.

So this film left me feeling cheated and sad. If that sounds like a fun night in to you – have at it. Honeymoon certainly isn’t a bad film. But I won’t be watching it again. Which is a shame.