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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Honeymoon, Review: Obsessed groom, possessed wife


Honeymoon, Review: Obsessed groom, possessed bride

Honeymoon is a horror film directed by Leigh Janiak, and her feature film directorial debut. It stars Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway as a newly married couple whose honeymoon ends up being ruined by a series of strange events that prove fatal. Though less than 90 minutes long, it can be divided into two halves: First, it is the ambience and the relationship defined, and second—horror and the unknown at work.

Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are newly married and off to have a romantic honeymoon in a rustic cabin set in a secluded forest. During their stay there, they go to a small restaurant whose owner Will (Ben Huber) initially acts hostile, asking them to leave, but later calms down, realising he was Bea's childhood friend. The man's wife Annie (Hanna Brown) then comes in, acting weird, and saying they need to get away.

After that, everything goes normally until their wedded bliss is cut short when Bea goes missing. Paul finds her naked and disoriented in the woods with no evidence as to how or why she got there. He takes her back to the cabin, with her claiming she was sleep-walking due to the stress, and to make nothing of it. However, as time passes, Bea's behaviour becomes increasingly distant and strange. At first, Paul blames Bea's strange behaviour on some encounter with Will, the restaurant owner, but soon he realises there's more going on.

The horror angle comes in towards the end of the first half, and keeps progressively getting more and more grotesque and repulsive. But the main premise is not explained, and there’s no denouement. A cabin in the woods, dark exteriors, strange beams of light, sleep-walking, suggestions of alien or Satanic presence…are all stock material of the horror genre, but the writer-director must take a stand to put it all together. Is it about relationships falling apart? Is it about Satan possessing women? Is it about women getting even with their husbands for undefined excesses?

Rose Leslie (cast on the basis of her performance in Game of Thrones) is confident and stylish in the first half, biting her lower lip suggestively once too often. In the second half, she is unable to make sense of the goings on, as is the audience. Harry Treadaway makes a nice, young husband, who dotes over his wife. When confronted with her physical and mental metamorphoses, he should have had the common sense to escape, but the script compels him to stay and keep taking the murky goings on almost in his stride. It is an unnatural reaction, and he reacts half-heartedly by overdoing it. Ben Huber and Hanna Brown have small roles, with a tiny back-story.

Explaining the influences on her, co-writer/director Leigh Janiak says, “I thought about David Cronenberg and Alien a lot, as far as the effects go, specifically because I really wanted that tactile, gory feeling, and for them to feel really organic. Those were certainly influences, as far as the body horror goes. For the rest of the film, I thought a lot about Rosemary's Baby, inasmuch as you're so grounded with Rosemary, and her paranoia and doubt, during that entire movie. Also Michael Haneke's Amour (really?)—I looked a lot at that film. It informed how I spoke to Rose and Harry about the decay of their relationship, and not knowing what to do when this person you love starts to become someone else.”

Janiak had seen Monsters and Tiny Furniture shortly before she and Graziadei began working on this script. She is quite effective in the little touches that dot the scenes leading up to the crises. Come the second half, she has some serious problems marrying the beginning of a couple’s new life, with the devilish conspiracy to punish obsessive husbands for no fault of theirs.

One thing is sure: Honeymoon is no Alien. And certainly no Amour.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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