Honeymoon SXSW Review

A flat and forgettable genre exercise that seems less substantial than the low-budget '50s sci-fiers it recalls.

Neither as purposefully spooky nor as inadvertently campy as the low-budget ’50s sci-fiers it often recalls, “Honeymoon” is the sort of flat and forgettable genre exercise that fills holes in VOD schedules after, or during, fleeting theatrical playdates.  The sole novelty in this otherwise unexceptional indie is its relatively serious treatment of a plot device — extraterrestrials struggling to master and remember human lingo while passing as earthlings — usually played for easy laughs. Unfortunately, that’s not nearly enough to alleviate the tedium.

Some viewers may be mildly scared during the opening moments — “Oh, no! Not another found-footage movie!” — as attractive newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) playfully describe their courtship and wedding while directly addressing a videocamera. For better or worse, however, “Honeymoon” quickly reveals its true colors as a far more traditional thriller.

The young marrieds drive to a remote cabin near a lake to spend their first few days of conjugal bliss. Their idyll, not surprisingly, is short-lived: Late one night, as the couple lies in post-coital slumber, their bedroom is illuminated with the standard-issue flashing lights usually employed by filmmakers weaned on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to indicate Something Not of This Earth is lurking outside. Bea awakens, and goes out to investigate. When she returns, she isn’t quite herself.

Director Leigh Janiak, working from a checklist of cliches she assembled with co-scripter Phil Graziadei, fails to generate a sense of menace or an air of mystery as Paul gradually recognizes telltale signs that his beloved has been replaced, or possessed, by an unwelcome and unearthly visitor.

At first, he finds it strange that Bea is writing, and rewriting, in a notebook important details about her life — her name, for example — in the manner of a dutiful schoolgirl practicing penmanship. Then she starts to use unusual terms for everyday objects — “clothing box” instead of “suitcase” — and refuses to have sexual congress with her anxious yet still amorous husband. And then disgusting things start to emerge from Bea’s orifices, much to Paul’s fear and revulsion.

Here and there, “Honeymoon” suggests a symbolic intent, hinting that the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”-style plot may be an allegory for the rude surprises in store for people who only think they know each other before joining hands in marriage. In a similar vein, those inclined to parse even junky B-movies for feminist subtext may read Paul’s reaction to Bea’s excretions as typical of unenlightened male responses to certain facts of female life.

But, really, 1958’s “I Married a Monster From Outer Space” is far worthier of such analysis. “Honeymoon,” in stark contrast, is as insubstantial as it is unremarkable. The dialogue is flat, the pacing is lethargic, the acting is unexceptional — neither the leads nor supporting players Ben Huber and Hanna Brown bring much to the table — and the production values are no better than they have to be.

Film Review: 'Honeymoon'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Midnighters), March 13, 2014. (Also in Tribeca Film Festival — Viewpoints.) Running time: 87 MIN.

Production

A Fewlas Entertainment production. Produced by Patrick Baker, Esme Howard. Executive producers, Julie Parker Benello, Allen Benello, Brandon Dufour, John Dufour, Chris Pilaro, Daniel Troiano.

Crew

Directed by Leigh Janiak. Screenplay, Janiak, Phil Graziadei. Camera (color), Kyle Klutz; editor, Christopher S. Capp; music, Heather McIntosh; production designer, Chris Trujillo; set decorator, Scott Kuzio; sound, Thomas Curley; assistant director, TK Shom.

With

Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown.

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