When a squabbling and dieting couple’s (Sawyer Spielberg and Malin Barr) car breaks down in a diseased part of rural America, they stop at an isolated house and ask to use the owner’s phone. It sounds like every other horror flick (there are echoes of Midsommar in the rocky relationship going on vacation), but Honeydew has more to offer those craving a truly stomach-churning cut of terror.
Where Midsommar was content to retell The Wicker Man for two and a half hours, newcomer Devereux Milburn is less predictable (and more concise) in his quest for queasiness. The house where Sam and Rylie (the couple confusingly given the names of the actor Sam Riley) end up is apparently located “between Pleasant Street and Trouble Street,” but appears to exist on the intersection of Eraserhead, The Witch and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Like the Tobe Hooper classic, this work is deceptively free of graphic violence. It is all horrifically implied and saved for dessert, by which time the viewer is dizzy with nausea from the disjointed editing, guttural soundtrack and a sense of humour so dark it’s practically charred. An uncredited appearance from Lena Dunham is also likely to rank among the strangest turns of the year.
What the picture lacks in ambiguity it makes up for in audacity, atmosphere and acting, particularly Barbara Kingsley as a kind of backwoods Ann Widdecombe and Jamie Bradley as her brain-dead, Popeye-watching, lemon-eating son. The male lead Spielberg is Steven’s son but looks more like Prince Harry, making the whole thing seem like an inadvertent and timely Harry and Meghan allegory.
Certainly not accidental is the movie’s attitude to meat, a film to turn you vegan as quickly as Raw or Chicken Run. The carnivorous imagery makes Honeydew as unsettling physically as it is psychologically, Milburn’s execution proving precise and patient without being slow or sacrificing story. Admittedly it’s mutton new, but it sure feels fresh.
Honeydew is released digitally on demand on 29th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Honeydew here: