Honeymoon is first-time director Leigh Janiak's 2014 film about a couple's honeymoon going not quite as planned. The film debuted at SxSW and recently was widely released to VOD and Netflix. Check out the trailer below, and then continue on down for our full review. But there are spoilers there. So watch out. Warned be ye.
Jack: Honeymoon. We wanted to watch something marriage-themed this week because guess what?! Our editor Mark just got married! Oh yeah. Married. Off the market. This guy:
Jack: So what did we do? We went right ahead and heroically accommodated him. Like heroes. Anyway, enough about Mark, because does everything have to be about him? So we watched Honeymoon. It’s a 2014 movie and the directorial debut of Leigh Janiak. The movie stars Rose Leslie of Game of Thrones fame, and Harry Treadaway of Penny Dreadful fame.
Jake: Seriously though, congratulations to Mark and his wife, Leslie. And nothing says romance is in the air like a horror movie about the honeymoon. Nothing. This is really the best wedding gift we could give.
Jack: Which reminds me, Mark, this is your gift from me. I’ll expect my thank you card soon. The movie opens on videos of the the two stars, who play newly married couple Bea and Paul, giving each other wedding wishes. The two are charming and relatable, and feel like a real couple, unlike Mark and Leslie, who feel like a strange and befuddling combination. We then cut to them arriving at their honeymoon destination, Bea’s old family lake house in Canada.
Jake: The only thing that is strange and befuddling about Mark and Leslie’s relationship is that she married a guy capable of looking like this:
Jake: In all seriousness though, I really disagree with you on that one. I didn’t really find their whole shtick to be very natural. Their intimate dialogue seemed light years off to me. Really childish and bizarre. I mean, I get that they are supposed to be excited and on their honeymoon, but what married couple constantly gets in water fights and speaks to one another in weird tones of voice?
Jack: I dunno buddy, I think you’re full of beans on this one. Their interactions felt totally relatable to me. Jake’s conception of human interpersonal interactions aside, there really isn’t a whole lot that happens in this early chunk of the movie. Bea and Paul are cute and in love, and they bang all over the damn house. There’s a lot of sex in this early section.
Jake: Not that cute, dude. They do bang all over the place though. One thing that kind of disappointed me in the early going was that the first goddamned night they are at their remote lake house (which is not at all remote - more on that later) the movie goes ahead and makes it pretty damn clear that there are aliens involved. Big beam of light scanning along through the windows. Loud, droning bass noise. You know, #alienthings. I guess it could have been a lake monster outside doing some casual nighttime welding, but my money was most assuredly not on that.
Jack: Hmm. I was less disappointed. I’m not saying my first thought wasn’t aliens, because it was clearly aliens. But kind of in a way that made me feel like it could still just be a weirdo perv. Now I hadn’t heard hide nor hare of this movie before watching it. I didn’t watch a trailer or anything like that either. And unlike POD, the dang thumbnail poster on this movie was quite nondescript, so that didn’t give anything away either. I was going in blind is what I’m saying, much like Stevie Wonder embarking on an adulterous adventure.
Jake: The two go out on the lake during their second day of the honeymoon and Bea shows Paul how to drive a boat and use the anchor. Now I’m not going to say this was as much of a dead giveaway as the lights were, but the lake felt very Chekhov’s Lake to me… But back to the whole not deserted aspect of this movie. For all the horror movies that try to play something that is not isolated off as if it were isolated, at least this one does the good job of baking an explanation into the script. Paul mentions it in the context of trying to get Bea to get naked. It’s not quite summer yet so nobody is around. Got it. Good enough for me.
Jack: Yeah, it’s the sort of writing that I like. Acknowledge a problem with the plot, address it without creating any new problems and move on. Effective.
Jake: Next, Paul and Bea decide to walk down to the local restaurant for dinner, which as we would have guessed from the dialogue literally right beforehand, is empty because it’s not quite summer yet so nobody is around. They walk into an empty diner where some skid is blowing a fuse about god knows what. He recognizes Bea though, and we get some dialogue that informs us Bea grew up in this little town. His wife comes out and looks severely ill, and Bea and Paul high-tail it out of there.
Jack: Yeah, this scene was really unsettling. Something’s clearly wrong, but it’s not quite clear what yet. At first blush, it seems like Will is somehow hurting his wife Annie, who’s very meek and warns Bea and Paul that they should leave. Spoiler alert, it turns out that Will is just freaking the fuck out because Annie has presumably gone full-blown bananas. We’ll get to why later, and I only mention that now because I liked the twist and will almost assuredly forget to write about it later. I am a professional after all.
Jake: What twist? Was the whole thing a twist? Or just the part about...
Jack: … Shut the fuck up, man! I said we will get to it later. Anyway, after their lovely and neighborly meal, our heroes settle back into the lake house. They turn in for the second night of their honeymoon. At like 3 in morning, all the electronics in the house go completely haywire. Lights start flickering . . . well maybe that’s all that happens, but all of the lights flicker. And then Paul’s alarm starts going off. He gets out of bed and gets ready to go fishing to make them breakfast or something, but realizes that it’s 3 am instead of whatever time he set his alarm for and heads back inside to catch a few more zzz’s. As a quick aside, I’m still not clear on why his phone alarm went off at the wrong time. I get that the power went out and that fucked with the clocks and the walls and stuff, but his phone didn’t die or anything right?
Jake: Because aliens, man! Have you seen Close Encounters of The Third Kind? Aliens make all sorts of stuff act up. Paul soon realizes Bea isn’t there, and immediately assumes she is playing the most elaborate of practical jokes on him (because they are a weird couple). As he realizes that’s not the case, however, we get some good tension-building. He looks around the house and then heads outside to see where she might have gone as he starts to panic. He finally finds her out there. Naked. They chalk it up to sleepwalking, but you know some shit’s going down.
Jack: Classic sleepwalking. Although I should remember that for the next time I'm found wandering around the woods at night naked . . . Yeah, I completely agree. There was a lot of real tension in this scene. I credit the actor playing Paul, Harry Treadaway, because I felt his terror and panic at not being able to find his new wife. And I should know, I’m a man who loses his wife on the regular. Well, I say “lose,” but it’s more that I get stuck looking at a Magic Eye picture or whatever, and then I turn around and Hannah’s gone and I freak out. But you know, potato, potato. Hmm. That really doesn’t work written does it?
Jake: The fact that you are married gets more and more upsetting by the day, guy. Also it makes what Mark and Leslie have less special somehow. They chalk the whole ordeal up to sleepwalking and gloss over the electrical freak out. Makes sense. Maybe she thought there was an electrical fire and she had to take her pants off so she could run faster out of the flames.
Jake: They try to get on with their decidedly less sexy honeymoon from here, but Paul soon notices some weird looking marks on Bea’s thighs, quite close to her nether parts, mind you. She calls them bug bites. Paul doesn’t believe her and it sets in motion a pretty good second act of the movie, as the two begin to ride a roller coaster of tension and mounting distrust.
Jack: The next section of the movie was so great. It was terrifying and it made me uneasy for a couple of days. So Bea is telling Paul that everything’s fine, and she just sleepwalked into the woods, and there’s nothing to worry about. But all the while, she seems a little off. Nothing big, but just not quite right. She uses phrases that are not the way one would typically speak. She tries to make french toast and coffee, but forgets to batter the bread for the french toast and forgets to grind the beans for the coffee. It’s written really subtly and executed even better. The actors totally sell whole thing. This was on par with the best and creepiest episodes of the Twilight Zone. It really made me uneasy.
Jake: Could not agree more. For a movie where I was pretty sure what was ultimately going on, it did a tremendous job of painting in very broad strokes and letting you as a viewer watch the whole thing unravel and take in the specifics. I thought it was awesome at deftly toeing the fine line of giving away too much. Paul becomes suspicious as time passes and her behavior becomes more and more erratic and detached. Plus she’s not putting out which is red flag numero uno on a honeymoon… So he retraces his steps to where he found her in the woods and finds her nightgown, covered in some weird jelly, and apparent footprints in the ground. He assumes she’s cheating on him with that Will guy because of course he does.
Jack: Well yeah man. What kind of cheating doesn’t involve not leaving a nightgown shredded and covered in gelatin? The best kind. Or the worst kind? I got lost in my own Rubik's Cube of a sentence there. When he gets back from his adventure into the forest, we get what is by far my favorite scene in the movie. Paul comes into the house and looks around for Bea, but he can’t find her right away. Eventually, he notices her voice from the bathroom and creeps up to see what’s going on. What’s going on is motherfucking terrifying. Not in a jump out at you way, but in an “if it was happening to me I would no longer like to be alive” kind of way. Bea is looking at herself in the mirror, rehearsing a line. She’s trying a whole bunch of different ways to tell Paul she doesn’t want to have sex with him. First she says her tummy isn’t feeling well, but then she tries a version of the line with her stomach being upset. Next, she tries a version of the line about having a headache that Advil didn’t help, but then changes that to Tylenol. It’s really disturbing.
Jake: It made me feel sick to my stomach. It was so intense. The scene was also shot in such as way that you see Bea through the reflection on the medicine cabinet mirror that is tilted just enough to allow for line of sight from her to where Paul is standing in the hall. You assume she is going to notice him through the mirror, and as the scene drags on and on, the intensity keeps ratcheting up to almost unbearable levels. But she never notices him. Great, chilling scene.
Jack: The two start playing a very tense game of Yahtzee, and then Paul wants to have sex. Men, am I right? Bea uses the line Paul found her rehearsing, and that sends him off the edge. He freaks out and demands to see her nightgown. As anyone who’s been paying attention will have guessed, Bea can’t produce the nightgown, but chooses to lie about it, saying it’s in the “clothes box,” but then correcting it to suitcase.
Jake: He is extremely convinced she is cheating on him, and it leads to a separation that night as she retires to bed and Paul is so distraught he can’t sleep. He roams the house and passes time by playing with a flashlight. This scene was also tense, and his own strange behavior only served to keep raising the level of discomfort you have as you watch things continue to unravel.
Jack: Yeah, that was some odd behavior, but it did give us a great shot of the light hitting the bear mounted on the wall in really cool and artistic way, so that’s something I guess. In any case, they make it through the night, and apologize to each other and try to get their honeymoon back on track. That night, they’re back in the same bed together. Bea is sleeping but Paul isn’t. Those damn spotlights come back, but this time Paul sees them. He grabs a shotgun and runs out into the woods to chase after whatever they are. Turns out they’re black silhouettes near the horizon. Paul just gives up and fires his gun right up into the air.
Jake: If he hadn’t already made the decision to cut the honeymoon short before (and I think he had grounds to do so), this most certainly would have been the last damn straw. He thinks she’s cheating on him, she’s acting like a lunatic, her “bites” are getting worse, and now there are confirmed “people” that seem to be stalking them. Any human being would have thrown her in the car and gotten out of there post-haste.
Jack: You know, it’s interesting. I certainly can’t disagree with you, and in hindsight I absolutely think that Paul should have either bailed or gotten her out of there sooner. But I didn’t have that thought while watching the thing. I did at one point think that Paul was still wayyyyy to stuck on the “It was Will” thing after there is a significant amount of evidence that it was something way more supernatural than a sexy childhood friend. That takes us to the last day of their honeymoon, which, if I’m being honest, has gone less than perfectly thus far. In a final attempt to salvage the trip, the two go out on the boat again. Paul just wants to have sex with Bea, so he goes in for the old reach-around. When he puts his hand down her pants, he finds blood. A lot of blood. A lot. So back to the cabin they go. She tries to tell him that it’s her period, but he helpfully points out they planned the whole dang honeymoon around her period so they wouldn’t have to deal with it. Anyway, he’s proper convinced that now it’s time to pack their shit and get out of there.
Jake: But not before confronting Will. He heads down to their house, but only finds his wife, who is looking even worse than before. She says some haunting shit about how “he is hiding”, and Paul finds his hat floating off the dock on the lake. That, mixed with her ghost-white skin and dead eyes do not inspire confidence. He breaks into their house and finds a security recording that captures the same lights from outside. He rushes home to get Bea and whoa Nelly, do things escalate quickly.
Jack: Chick-a-chick-a-bey do they ever. I may never have sex again. Which is a shame for my marriage because that was really the only thing I was bringing to the table. In any case, when Paul gets back to the cabin, he finds Bea in the bathroom jamming an 8-inch kitchen knife right the fuck up her vagina. Multiple times. Like all the way up there. Uggh. Paul understandably freaks out and grabs her and ties her to the bead. Having nearly lost all of his mind, he starts kissing his way up Bea’s legs. As he heads north, he reaches his hand up into where Bea was jamming that knife. Horrified, he quickly retracts it and finds it covered in some sort of webbing. Then Bea begs him to get ‘it’ out of her vagina. So in he dives. And what he finds is some kind of worm-looking alien monster several feet long that was just chilling up in there. Presumably making Bea forget words like “suitcase.”
Jake: Yeah man, it was fucking disgusting. I almost couldn’t watch it. It should be a known fact that I don’t like body horror and my god, I was not prepared for that at all. But what we do have is firm confirmation of some alien gnarliness all aboot. Paul is frantic to get the hell out of there and get help, but Bea gets up and tells him about being raped by aliens that night she went missing, and that he is not safe. She then just absolutely cold clocks him. He wakes up in the boat as she rows it out to the middle of the lake. Lake Chekhov, if you will. She is mumbling the same lunatic shit about “hiding him” as Will’s wife was ranting on earlier. As he comes t, he notices she is looking way more like Will’s wife. Her skin is all flaky and pale, and her eyes are all sorts of abnormal. Before he can get his wits, she throws him overboard with an anchor tied to his feet. Game over, man. Should have gotten out of there. Was this movie really about pride and jealousy? Does it really kill?
Jack: The only thing that can come between true love guy. Jealously. Although the jealously was really only brought on by an alien impregnation... You know what? I’ve got it. The lesson of this movie is that when your wife gets impregnated by aliens, don’t be jealous of her sexy childhood friend. Good advice for all of us, but especially good advice for our buddy Mark as he embarks on his own honeymoon. And with that, it’s time for ratings.
For 1, think of out Michael Therrien would rate soff’ guys pretending to care:
For 10, think of how zombie kid would rate turtles:
Jack: 7 - I really dug this story. It’s simple enough that they didn’t try to do too much and screw anything up. At the same time, the inclusion of Bea just being slightly off and subtly getting worse as time goes on felt totally original. The writers took a good concept and executed on it quite well.
Jake: 6 - The more removed from this movie, the more I like the story. This is mostly because it does a pretty good job of shielding its true hand for the vast majority of the film, and even goes ahead and gives you a pretty good indication of what is going on from a big picture standpoint, knowing damn well you won’t expect some of that shit at the climax. I feel astoundingly gross even saying that word in relation to this movie.
WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:
Jack: 8 - Holy shit did this movie have me engrossed. I was in at just the charmingness of the couple. Then when it all starts go wrong, that tension could not feel more real. Then at the climax (there’s that word again and uggh), I was squirming all over the damn place. This movie left lasting feelings of unease in me. And had me looking at my wife sideways whenever she used the wrong word for weeks.
Jake: 7 - This movie was very good at building and sustaining tension throughout. My eyes were glued to the screen during the middle. My only indictment is that I couldn’t get past why he wouldn’t just throw her in the car and drive away MUCH earlier. Then again, we never see him drive in this film. She drives the car in, she has to teach him to drive a boat. Maybe he’s some New York City boy who’s never had to drive a car. Oh, also - you could hear some of the British-ness of both characters' accents as they got into the more intense bits. That broke immersion a bit as well.
Jack: 7 - This movie is eminently unsettling. The scenes with Bea behaving just a bit strangely really creeped me out. That feeling of dread only progressed as the movie went on. And then the gross stuff was outrageously effective on me too.
Jake: 7 - This gets a high score mostly for chilling tension, but is also bolstered by a liberal dose of “fucking disgusting” near the end.
EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):
Jack: 6 - This weighs more on the ‘lack thereof’ side of things. And that’s a good thing. I’ll give it that the worm monster was pretty terrific-looking, as were the gore scenes. The silhouettes felt undeveloped which made me aware of the budget as I was watching. That and the spotlight are dragging the score down a little.
Jake: 5 - There wasn’t much going on for the vast majority of the film, which I preferred. The deterioration aspect was only ok, and while the vagina scene was gross, it didn’t necessarily look amazingly believable, either. I guess. Not sure what I wanted there. Honestly, I should probably bump this up because that didn’t look better. Should I even say “better”? Oh god, what’s happening?!
Jack: 7 - Maybe 8. I really enjoyed this movie. I highly recommend that you check it out, which is really easy because it’s on Netflix. Especially for the feature-film debut of director Leigh Janiak. Props to her and everyone else involved in this thing.
Jake: 6.25 - This movie was not what I expected, and that’s mostly for the better. It does tension building very well, and some of the more chilling sequences make it worth a watch.