“A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night.” — IMDb
Honeymoon is director Leigh Janiak’s feature film debut and you all know how much I love checking out works by female directors, especially when they wind up being as solid as this one is. It’s a nice blend of science fiction, mystery, and horror, and it all works really well together.
The film almost exclusively follows Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway), a newlywed couple who head to Bea’s family lakeside cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. They are enjoying their peaceful, serene break from the big city until Bea sleepwalks into the woods one night and comes back mysteriously changed, and not for the better…
** SPOILERS! **
As is common with films like this, it takes a bit to get to the action — there’s a good 15-18 minutes of them just being super mushy with each other, calling each other by their pet names, having sex in the shower, and overall just being over the moon about their recent wedding. In the moment, it felt like a bit much, but as the movie progressed, many of those details came into pretty crucial play — I was really pleased to see just how well-planned that was. I wish we had known a bit more about who and how they were pre-honeymoon as I think it would have made their ultimate demise more meaningful, but it was still well-planned.
I loved how subtle Bea’s changes were at first. Paul finding her naked in the woods was jarring, to say the least — and he did a great job at conveying that mix of worry, disbelief, and absolute confusion that one would feel after experiencing such a thing. It’s no surprise that he would be on high alert that night and the next day, making sure she truly was alright. But her shifts were initially slight enough that they really could have been from a lack of sleep and, as she says, the stress of the wedding catching up to her. Maybe a bit hard to swallow — forgetting to batter the french toast or to actually brew the coffee — but possible to dismiss as just a one-off odd moment.
When they go back out in the rowboat and she spontaneously jumps into the water with her clothes on… so perfect. You see this complex expression cross her face — she’s trying to be what she’s supposed to be, what she’s expected to be, and in that moment she knows that she has failed. She knows she has blown her cover, in a subtle way. But she’s still hopeful for a moment that it worked.
Ultimately, that was an aspect that I enjoyed — she didn’t return from the woods having done a complete 180. You almost got the feeling that she was slipping away from herself and trying, fruitlessly, to hold on. I don’t know if it was meant to be a metaphor for failing relationships/marriage in general, but it’s a good one — losing yourself, perhaps to the horror of the person who loves you, despite trying to hold on, trying to shield the other person from your changes, trying to protect them even if it ultimately means killing them — figuratively, I hope — in the process.
I also enjoyed the fact that oftentimes in these types of movie scenarios — where one person in a relationships turns out to be not at all what they seem — it’s the man who becomes the changed person, who becomes violent or evil. But Janiak flipped that gender stereotype on its head with this one.
I think one of the freakiest moments, for me, was when he comes back inside after finding her nightgown in the woods — ripped and inexplicably slimy — and he peeks into the bedroom to see her rehearsing lines in the mirror, practicing how to reject him when he tries to sleep with her. I can just only imagine the feeling of fear he must have had in that moment — fear without knowing fully why, even.
The other was when he looks over her shoulder as she’s writing in her journal and sees that she’s writing down basic facts — “My name is Bea, my husband is Paul, we live in Brooklyn”, etc. Again, such a rush of terror, both for himself and for her.
I thought the inclusion of Will (Ben Huber), Bea’s childhood friend, and his wife Annie (Hanna Brown) was a good one, if for no other reason than it ended up adding a sense of strange community to the situation. This wasn’t an isolated incident for Bea. Annie was undergoing the same transformation, and Paul finding that out when he went back to the restaurant amped up the urgency to find out what the hell is going on.
The final confrontation between Bea and Paul was intense. You can see how much Bea is searching, internally, for the right things to say. She recites her facts word-for-word, exactly as they appear in her journal (chilling). She mentions wanting to protect Paul. He tries their pet name on her — calling her “Honey Bea” and waiting for her response — and she replies “we don’t remember” (ugh). He asks her how he proposed to her and the way she gets it wrong — telling the story as it should have been, not how it happened — was extra creepy, especially considering how proud she seemed to have correctly recited it.
We get a touch of body horror here and there with Bea’s “bug bites” worsening, her alarming bleeding (as Paul tells her he knows she isn’t on her period), and eventually her coaxing him to pull a horrifying, serpent-like creature from between her legs as she writhes in pain. The gore was perfectly placed and efficient in its presentation — reminding us of just how much this is a physical transformation as well as a psychological one without being gratuitous.
The ending was also pretty fantastic. We aren’t 100% clear — or at least I’m not — if Bea’s intention really was to hide Paul, that her human and alien instincts were just too merged at that point to realize what she was actually doing by tying him up and sending him over the edge of the boat. But her intentions seemed genuine — she wanted to keep him safe somewhere that they couldn’t get to him, saying “I’m going to hide you under the water. They can’t reach you there.” (shudder). We see her in the later stages of her physical transformation, scaly and almost reptilian as she joins Annie and others in the woods with the silhouetted beings. And the overlay of her earlier, hopelessly romantic quote to Paul — “Before I was alone and now I’m not” — was just perfect. Highly recommended!