|Honorary Canadian Chiller|
Filmmaker Leigh Janiak is NOT Canadian, but she might as well be.
Her first feature HONEYMOON is set in the wilds of Canada and prior to learning that this twisted, uber-talented Cleveland lassie actually vacationed with her folks as a child in their Canuck cottage every summer, my first two helpings of the movie convinced me she HAD to be a Canuck.
There is nothing scarier and creepier than the Canadian wilderness. It's not DELIVERANCE-scary (though in its sickeningly benign Canuckian way it CAN be), but it's chilling as all get-out in very subtle ways. Everything about Canada is "subtle" which is what ultimately gives it a unique flavour whenever horrific things actually happen up here. Canadian wilderness, you see, feels so endless that you sense the natural world is swallowing you whole and worst of all, it's quiet - so goddamned quiet you sometimes want to kill someone or, better yet, yourself. God knows, the hair-raising stylistic frissons of master Canuckian filmmakers like David Cronenberg, Guy Maddin and Atom Egoyan (the latter's latest and severely misunderstood THE CAPTIVE, a perfect case in point about our rural ickiness) have all managed to induce the kind of shudders endemic to this supremely perverse country. Now we can add the Honorary Canadian Leigh Janiak and HONEYMOON to my list of the best Canadian films NEVER made by Canadians (FARGO and SLAP SHOT taking the top-slots in this Klymkiw-exclusive genre). HONEYMOON is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Video Services Corp. (VSC) and Magnolia. If you want the shit scared right out of you, I urge you to get out there and buy this one immediately.
And now, my review:
Dir. Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway
Review By Greg Klymkiw
There's an urban legend that goes thusly: A man coughs so violently that a thick rope of dark, gooey, sputum jettisons from his mouth.
This is not a case of said sputum yet depositing itself on the floor, wall or any such surface, but rather, continues to hang from the man's mouth in a manner more physiologically commensurate to that of a drooling mastiff in severely hot, humid weather. With every cough, one rapidly following the other, the man continues to release several more inches of the gelatinous goo which, refuses to separate from within. The man grabs onto the foul rope of viscous saliva with both hands, clenching and squeezing for dear life, his eyes popping in terror like Mantan Moreland in a haunted house. The man begins to resemble a church bell-ringer on bennies, tugging vigorously as he extricates more, and more, and yet, more of the bilious, glutinous cordage from his dank, sopping maw. There is no end to the glistening, pus-ridden copulae of meaty, bloody phlegm. He keeps yanking upon it with deranged abandon and it still continues to gush forth, forming finally, a sausage-link-like coil on the floor. It becomes plainly obvious to the gent that this bilious cascade is no simple, garden variety discharge.
|Creepy Kitchen Action|
And so it goes.
There is a scene, a major two-by-four-to-the-face horror setpiece in Honeymoon, Leigh Janiak's auspicious feature length directorial debut that brings the aforementioned urban legend immediately to mind. It is, however, no mere diseased lung being extricated, it's something far more disturbingly insidious and downright disgusting. Most of all, Janiak (who co-wrote the clever script with Phil Graziadei) doesn't utilize an orifice as quaint as a mere mouth, but instead violates an opening of far more indelicacy, one which inspires, not only horror, but deep shame.
The picture opens innocuously enough. We meet Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway), a young, mid-twentysomething newlywed couple who drive straight up north to the former's legacy cottage for what will be a private getaway for our lovebirds to more officially consummate their union that's just been held before friends, family and God, the Holy Father.
For a good, long time we share the couple's giddy, loving abandon - getting to know them as people, but also gaining insight into their relationship. At the same time, we experience the subtle shifts in mood and honest human emotion that any newlywed couple will encounter, even at this early juncture in their relationship. As life will oft have it, there are, then, a few cracks in the fortification of their lifelong commitment to each other, but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly nothing to raise alarm.
For the most part, they're almost insufferably in love and we explore the most intimate details of their new and happy life together. (Yes folks, plenty o' sex twixt our attractive, talented actors.)
This is until, one night. As the couple sleep deeply after one of many vigorous sessions of coitus with no interruptus, a mysterious light begins to shine through their bedroom window. This is no ordinary incandescence and it passes over the bodies of Bea and Paul in a slow, deliberate manner. Rather than bathing them in a warm glow of peace and comfort, we feel like an entity is taking something dear and precious from them and that it will take all their fortitude to keep their love alive.
That, however, isn't the only thing they'll need to keep alive and it's from this point onwards that a slow, creepy crawly horror takes over and indeed intensifies. There's something in them thar' woods that's going to change their lives forever.
And it ain't pretty.
Honeymoon is one of the best horror films you're likely to have seen in quite some time. It is first and foremost a love story, but like many couplings in this genre, the threats on every front are going to mount exponentially. There will be times when they as characters and even we, as the audience, will begin to question our own sanity. Janiak displays a surprising command of the medium and her gifts to scare the living shit out of us are pitched to a very high, but sophisticated degree. Working in the grand tradition of the masterful Val Lewton, Janiak hits all the necessary marks of the RKO horror chief's checklist for great genre films: Focus upon the contemporary, focus upon humanity, focus upon the foibles of society, focus upon the insidious reality of the horror and if there's to be an otherworldly element to the picture, make sure it stays rooted in the relationships, dynamic and interplay between the characters.
And, of course, never, ever, ever forget that the best horror is rooted in atmosphere, so beware!
Beware the forest. Beware the night. Most of all, beware the light.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** Four Stars.
Honeymoon is a VSC and Magnolia DVD/BLu-Ray release. It includes a myriad of added value features including interviews with Janiak, the actors as well as a selection of promo pieces and various trailers.
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