"Zombie Honeymoon" scores simultaneously as romantic, tragic, grotesque and screamingly funny. A newlywed couple turns into star-crossed lovers when a beachfront encounter with a zombie leaves them on opposite sides of the grave. Will she stand by her man even when he starts taking bites out of everyone he encounters?

“Zombie Honeymoon” scores simultaneously as romantic, tragic, grotesque and screamingly funny. A newlywed couple, Denise (Tracy Coogan) and Danny (Graham Sibley), turns into star-crossed lovers when a beachfront encounter with a zombie leaves them on opposite sides of the grave. Will she stand by her man even when he starts taking bites out of everyone he encounters? Wisely, sophomore helmer/scribe Dave Gebroe (“Homeboy”) is equally committed to all the various genres — from love story to laffer to horror — that comprise his sentimental gorefest. With the right handling, strong, well-thesped pic has a real shot at becoming a cult classic.

Immediately after the wedding, bride and groom pile into their honeymoon car with cans tied on the back and head out to a borrowed beachfront house, romping around with the ease and familiarity of a well-established twosome. Denise and Danny lie down on the sand, soaking up rays, when a half-decomposed body lurches out of the sea and spews black bile into Danny’s mouth, choking him to death. The hospital is unable to revive him, but in the midst of Denise’s inconsolable mourning he suddenly sits up.

Unlike tongue-in-cheek excursions into the horror genre, or post-modernist “Scream”-type self-reflection, affectionately campy elements of “Honeymoon” in no way diminish the pathos of the proceedings nor, for that matter, detract from their patent absurdity. Opening the door for her bloody hubby, Denise impatiently yanks him inside only to recoil when she notices he is clutching the disembodied arm of the travel agent who he snacked on earlier (“You went back?” “I was hungry.”).

Much of pic’s humor derives from the speed with which gruesome happenings are domesticated and normalized in Denise’s desperate attempt to adapt to her husband’s seriously anti-social behavior. For, like Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” “Honeymoon” is essentially a love story. Danny’s last vestige of humanity is his love for Denise. Like any substance abuser, in moments of lucidity this ex-vegetarian is horrified at what he has become.

Meanwhile Denise soldiers on in self-sacrificial, ultra denial mode. But a romantic candlelit dinner with all of hubby’s former favorite dishes is somewhat marred when pieces of his face start falling into the cream of mushroom soup. In a tour de force scene toward pic’s end, Denise readies herself in bed for her husband, the slurping, crunching sounds coming from downstairs becoming louder and louder as she alternately seeks to embrace or blot out what her marriage has become.

Large part of pic’s unique tone may come from its genesis — Gebroe’s sister’s young husband died suddenly in a freak surfboard accident and pic is an homage to their love of horror films. Fictional couple is closely modeled on the real one, down to their taste in music and dreamt-about trip to Portugal.

Zombie Honeymoon

Production

A Hooligan Pictures production in association with Glass Eye Pix. Produced by Dave Gebroe, Christina Reilly. Executive producers, Sam Downey, Steven Beer, Larry Fessenden. Directed, written by Dave Gebroe.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Ken Seng; editor, Gordon Grinberg; music, Michael Tremante; sound (Dolby), Randall Good, Tom Efinger. Reviewed on DVD at Hamptons Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 21, 2004. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Tracy Coogan, Graham Sibley, Tonya Cornelisse, David M. Wallace, Neal Jones.

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