Saturday 11 March 2023

Shudder Saturday: Honeydew (2020)

It has only been a week since I sat through the poor and incompetent Spoonful Of Sugar so I had some amount of trepidation when I decided to press play on Honeydew, a film described as one that depicts the strange cravings and hallucinations of a young couple who seek shelter in the home of an old woman after their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, I had no need to worry. Honeydew does everything right, further highlighting how right I was in my disdain for Spoonful Of Sugar.

Sawyer Spielberg and Malin Barr are Sam and Rylie, the young couple who end up at the home of Karen (Barbara Kingsley). Karen isn't in the house alone. There's also Gunni (Jamie Bradley) there, a man who they are told has been affected by a bull kicking him in the head. A long wait for someone to come and fix their car leads to the couple being offered a bed for the night, which is when things start to get even stranger.

The feature directorial debut from Devereux Milburn, who has spent the past 15 years working on numerous shorts and music videos, Honeydew is a film in which imagery and atmosphere are more important than a standard narrative, but there is a standard narrative here. Peel back the layers of bemusing grotesquery and nightmare sequences and you have a very simple core idea, as seen in hundreds of other horror movies. There's a danger that our leads are unaware of, characters are motivated by an insane life choice that makes sense to them, and viewers simply watch things get progressively worse while hoping for a happy ending. Milburn also wrote the script, developed  from an idea by himself and cinematographer Dan Kennedy, and he allows himself plenty of room to display a wide variety of horrors while also sprinkling enough details throughout to develop everything nicely for a finale that impressively manages to surpass anything that preceded it.

Spielberg and Barr are solid leads, quickly acclimatising to the strange woman they find themselves with and believably putting up with the situation while they figure that they can at least benefit from a night of rest if nothing else works out for them. Kingsley gives a great performance, particularly in the first half when she seems to move in and out of lucid moments. Her character never feels quite right, but it seems to be the kind of mental illness that so many people have seen the elderly struggle with. We soon learn that's not the case though, of course. Bradley has to act like, well, someone with a serious head injury, which he does very well, and there are small roles for Stephen D'Ambrose and Lena Dunham, the former adding more menace to the proceedings while the latter plays someone so unexpected that you're too busy considering what her appearance actually means, for the fate of others, instead of thinking "hey, that's Lena Dunham".

Absolutely destined to be turned off by viewers who will find it far too uncomfortable, and repugnant, this is impressively unsettling and horrifying fare. It makes great use of the one main location, Kennedy films everything as if we've just wandered into a b & b run by John Doe (from Seven), and the audio work, as well as the main music from John Mehrmann, complements the trippy visuals perfectly. As effective for what it doesn't fully show as for what it does, Honeydew is a unique spin on some well-worn horror movie tropes, and I look forward to what Milburn does next.


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