Directed by Leigh Janiak
Starring Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown
Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi
In 1954, Colliers Magazine published Jack Finney‘s sci-fi horror serial The Body Snatchers. Since then, this fire starter novella has led to a handful of direct film adaptations (the latest being Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s 2007 The Invasion starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman) and dozens of spinoffs (John Carpenter‘s The Thing for instance.) But even more importantly, Finney’s creation all but gave birth to a whole subsection of genre: the infamous body invasion flick. In the years since, many filmmakers have employed this humble little niche market as an elastic stage to claim veritable scares by peddling harrowing practical visual effects and unsettling character shifts (in the best of cases) or CG sight gags and the banal formula of a group’s numbers mysteriously thinning (in the worst of cases). Director and co-writer Leigh Janiak though sees the genre as a chance to explore change on a microscopic scale, to prod just how absolutely horrifying it would be to see the one you love most temporally drained from their own body. Let’s just say, it’s not nice.
With the very talented Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones) and Henry Callaway at her disposal, Janiak prohibits an immense talent for directing her actors into believable territory, even under such inconceivable circumstances. From the opening montage where we meet newlyweds Bea and Paul undergoing matrimonial traditions like cake fighting (even though they forewent a real cake for cinnamon buns) and recounting the events by which they met (bad Indian food, it’s always bad Indian food!) to Rose’s fleeting misguided attempts to protect her husband from her extraterrestrial transformation (“They’ll never find you down here”) and through all the bumping of uglies in between, Leslie and Callaway sell the show as genuine.
Even on the heels of the more outrageous elements, their steadfast performances point to a unshaken understanding of their character’s respective head spaces. For the genre, it’s an uncharacteristically committed pair of performances and with Janiak jamming her cameras right in the midst of their personal space, we feel like we’re right alongside them, an equal victim of some inexplicable emotional violation.
That is really where the true horror of these kinds of body snatching stories lies. Worse yet than seeing someone shot by a laser beam or abducted by some ethereal blue beam, there’s something infinitely more jarring to standing witness to an individual’s personality being siphoned out of them. Janiak’s film engages this process in stages. After running into what seems like the only other two people living in a ten mile radius, couple Annie and Will (who Bea just so happened to share a summer love with in the way, way back of past childhood flirtations), Janiak presents a first taste of “off-ness”. Annie’s withdrawn, confuzzled and all around off. She’s stage one of a mental virus, the foreshadow of what’s to come.
Shortly after meeting them, Paul wakes in the middle of the night to find the spot in bed next to him abandoned and cold to the touch. With harebrained suspicions of infidelity, he charges from the house only to find Bea naked, disorientated and caked in mud. Upon bringing her inside, a patch of what appears to be bug bites around her crotchal region alarms him. It’s nothing to worry about, she pleads in unconvincing manner. Instead of slamming on the brakes and seeing whatever transformation to come take place overnight, Janiak picks at her plate like a sparrow to birdseed. Like a gas leak from the brainstem, Bea isn’t replaced outright so much as reborn one blink at a time, reinvented with each breathe drawn, re-imagined with every performance of normalcy.
Watching Bea recite milestone events from her own life into the mirror mimics an earlier scene where she practices a speech to get out of engaging in post-marital carnal relations but in the space between, she’s become more drained – more a shell than the filling. She’s lost another chunk of “Bea.” It’s the hollow spaces between the words, the falsity of her gestures, the empty recitation of loving remarks that imbues Honeymoon with such an eerie tautness. Bea being such an unreliable character, we never know what’s coming next and right up to the very last moments, we never really get a grasp on how much “Bea” is left in Bea after all.
And though Honeymoon may take place at a cabin in the woods, the camp has been left at home. Janiak’s take is fatally humorless, devoutly sobering. Instead of harping on frights, she’s left us with a steamy atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a butter knife and serve it at as a wedding cake. Even the hollowed out bride and groom toppers wouldn’t be missing.
As Bea and Paul’s deserted woodland homestead becomes an unwelcome chrysalis, we’re left with little more than the remains of an evaporating relationship. Like Bea’s special nightgown (though it’s more hoary than whory) that Paul finds in the woods after her disappearance, there’s chunks inexplicably missing, impossible to recover, chalked up to some pieceless puzzle. But even after everything, there’s still some inkling of connection left, some fleeting memory of what it means to care for each other.
Perhaps that’s her intent after all, to show us something beautiful only to take it away, leaving tatters and fragments of what it meant to be able to connect with someone, to tell them you love them and actually mean it. By the end, “Bea” is reduced to mumbling her twisted version of sweet nothings but I’m still not convinced that all is lost of the well-intending New York butterfly she once was. Even in her harrowing final act, there’s love or at least something masquerading as such.
Follow Silver Screen Riot on Facebook
Follow Silver Screen Riot on Twitter