An elegant device powers many successful horror films: What if one’s symbolic fears are realized in a highly literal fashion? Such a maneuver grounds the viewers of Leigh Janiak’s emotionally astute Honeymoon in a state of constant distress. Taking a route through the audience’s hearts in order satisfy their gut-level desire for thrills, the film begins as newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) arrive at the bride’s cabin in the Canadian wilderness.
A marital rapport between the two performers is quickly demonstrated: Like real-life couples, these two demonstrate their own rhythms of speech, their shorthand, their familiarity with one another. Naturally, it’s only a matter of time until their idyll is shattered; after Paul finds Bea naked in the woods one night, in a trance, her behavior becomes increasingly strange. First she burns French toast without realizing it; next she’s speaking oddly, using phrases like “take a sleep”; soon he catches her rehearsing excuses to avoid sex.
Honeymoon adeptly takes an extremely relatable, powerful fear — that the person you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life with may turn into someone else, someone who doesn’t love you — and renders that fear extremely literally.
While its ending descends into standard horror tropes that fail to completely satisfy its promise, the film nevertheless achieves emotional resonance due to how effectively it joins its source of horror with the stuff of everyday human anxieties.