I approached my final horror of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival with some trepidation as it has been a very mixed year for the genre. The Green Inferno was an outstanding update of the cannibal film, whilst Let Us Prey and Scintilla have been drab generic British horrors. Fortunately, Leigh Jeniak‘s relatively impressive Honeymoon leans more towards the former of these films.
Honeymoon follows a newlywed couple Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) honeymooning in an old cabin in isolated Canada. Their initial romance soon begins to fade as strange occurrences begin and Bea starts acting mysteriously towards Paul.
Jeniak’s narrative is packed with intrigue and unease: we see the initial loved up couple romantically enjoying their honeymoon, yet gradually grow to almost resent each other as the film progresses. This change is marked by one strange event in a sequence which sees the alarm clocks go off in the middle of the night and Bea to go missing – only to be found in the woods, wearing a torn nightgown and with strange marks on her leg. From this moment on events grow stranger and Jeniak builds on the tense and unsettling atmosphere – shots of lights shining into the cabin at night build on the intrigue and spark a variety of questions. Is this neighbouring rednecks? Unearthly forces? A past trauma haunting Bea?
Jeniak does tend to rely on a variety of conventional genre tropes – as is inevitable when setting your film in a cabin in the woods. Sudden power outages, mysterious neighbours, and people generally behaving oddly fill Honeymoon. This is a narrative that will feel instantly familiar to even the most casual horror fans, but thankfully Jeniak executes proceedings with enough suspense, tension and occasional deviations from the generic formula to keep this watchable and engaging. Touches of grimy body horror and limited use of gory effects also add to this air of creepiness that haunts the film.
Young leads Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway also ensure that there is some attachment to the central characters through their charming initial performances. The handsome couple have a great spark between them – a spark which gradually morphs into a worrying hostility. Bea becomes confused, secretive and like a shell of her former self, whilst Paul becomes concerned and angered by this change in dynamic, sure of a wider conspiracy at play.
Honeymoon may not have the most original set-up but is suspenseful and suitably creepy enough to impress. Jeniak crafts a great atmosphere of unease and Treadaway and Leslie chip in two darkly engaging performances.
27,28 June 2014
Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown