Leigh Janiak’s haunting debut, Honeymoon, slowly peels back the layers of a relationship that gets torn apart in terrifying fashion as two newlyweds see their honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul discovers Bea wandering the woods in the middle of the night. Although this marks the first notch in her directorial debut, Janiak shows patience behind the camera as she masterfully builds eerie tension before unleashing a horrifying final act. Honeymoon is a genre bending slice of cinema that will have you guessing until the very end.
Although this one is certainly of the “not for everyone” variety, Honeymoon is an extremely rewarding experience that continues the trend of indie horror being cut from the cloth of the very best. The film is so smartly written that it never once relies on cheap jump scares to keep the narrative moving forward. Instead, it finds terror in creating unrelenting tension built around two people madly in love. That’s the great thing about the film. The characters never take a back seat in the story because they are the story.
The horror in Honeymoon stems from Bea and Paul’s relationship during their downward spiral as they struggle to hold on to each other. It’s an absolutely haunting thing to watch as the love between two people slip through the cracks. And what makes it especially hard to watch is the simple fact that the film moves at a slow, calculated pace. First showing us how deep their love for one another is and the bright future they have ahead of them. Bea, who is all smiles, takes on each day as if it were her last while Paul is just happy to be with the girl of his dreams.
Love is a simple thing, really. Well, it’s simple until you find your new wife naked in the woods one night with no idea of how she got there. And that’s where the fear settles in for poor Paul as he quickly finds out that Bea is not the same person she once was. The isolated setting of a cottage in the woods only further roots Honeymoon in terror as the film goes from a story of love and happiness to one of pure dread.
But the film’s strongest suit comes with the idea of Bea being stripped of her identity and the mystery of what happened to her in the woods that night. Paul—much like the audience—is left in the dark, scrambling to pick up the pieces before its too late. That sense of the unknown and the fear that crawls out of the dark and into their relationship is the driving force behind Honeymoon as it barrels towards an unforgettable conclusion. I always felt that the horror genre is at its best when it stays on a straight path with a simple story leading the way. Honeymoon is a perfect example of that.
Janiak’s debut is a simple, yet jarring one that never over complicates itself by digging too deep into the story. That’s the real beauty of Honeymoon as it only tells us just enough, not too much or too little. Love is a powerful thing, especially when its being torn to pieces.