In what was one of the highlights of the Discovery Screen programme at Film4 FrightFest, newly-married couple Paul and Bea arrive at her family’s cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. Although she hasn’t visited the cabin for years, her memories of the place are positive, and quickly the two settle into a peaceful routine: walks in the woods, pancakes for breakfast and the discovery of marital routine. However, each night when they fall asleep, a strange light starts circling the cabin. One night, when Paul wakes and fails to find Bea next to him, he heads outside to look for her, and things start to take a turn for the worse.
Effectively a slow-burning two-hander, Honeymoon is an impressive lesson in stretching a meagre budget to build up tension and unease. With strong lead performances, the film works best when it is exploring the marriage at a micro level: what works as an alien intrusion in their lives can also stand for the dissolving of their relationship due to changing personalities. It is this ambiguity, further emphasized by the surprise meeting of an old acquaintance of Bea’s at the local diner, that gives the film its sharp edge.
Director Leigh Janiak is terrific at creating atmosphere early on: although the cabin and the woods initially come across as peaceful, welcoming locations, it’s the contrast with what happens when the couple go to sleep that unnerves the audience. The encounter at the diner only adds to the sensation that something is wrong. As Rose Leslie’s Bea becomes a mystery even to her husband Paul, it’s the drip by drip delivery of clues that makes watching Honeymoon an exercise in unbearable tension.
Building to a convincing and eye-popping climax, Honeymoon is the sort of low-budget film that manages to frighten without ever resorting to cheap jump-scare tactics like some of its big-budget counterparts. The intense focus on Bea adds further intrigue to this genre offering at a time when finding strong female leads is still a rarity.
Watch the trailer: