Devereux Milburn’s debut feature film, Honeydew, is sure to be a delight for pretty much all lovers of horror. It takes a ton of tropes, particularly from “hillbilly horror,” and turns them on their heads over and over again. For example, instead of taking place in the south or most classically in these types of scenarios, Texas, it’s set in the forests of New England. It still achieves the same results as a lot of the hillbilly horror: you’ll never want to eat dinner with people you’ve never met before or go on a road trip ever again.
Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) is an actor with a big audition coming up. He’s on a camping trip with his girlfriend, Rylie (Malin Barr), a botanist interested in the local flora. There was a blight that passed through the area years before. Wheat became infected with a (fictional) fungus called sordico. It caused a loss in crops and livestock. Rylie wants to talk to the locals about the effect of the blight.
On the first night camping, they have a strange encounter with the property owner, Eulis (Stephen D’Ambrose), who told them they had an hour to get off his property. Upon leaving, the couple experiences car trouble and ends up at a nearby house. It’s pretty late, but the lady of the house, Karen (Barbara Kingsley), is still awake. She lets the couple in and tells them that she will call her neighbor, Pete, to come over and give Sam and Rylie a jump.
“…Pete never shows up, and Karen insists that Sam and Rylie spend the night.”
It should come as no surprise to most horror fans that Pete never shows up, and Karen insists that Sam and Rylie spend the night. The house is creepy… surprise! Along with Karen is her son, Gunni (Jamie Bradley), who is not right in the head, supposedly from getting kicked by a bull. He doesn’t talk and is prone to seizures. He also really doesn’t like meat for some reason. While Gunni and Karen put Rylie and Sam off, they reluctantly agree to spend the night.
Let’s just say that Karen is not the kind-hearted weirdo she first appears to be and has some creepy tricks up her sleeve and. Or maybe she is. There is a sense in her character of meaning well, even if her activities are not strictly legal, savory, or sane. We find out that Karen’s family is a little bit different from what it appears to be at first glance. This is especially highlighted in one of the very best and weirdest cameos I’ve ever witnessed in a film, and no, I’m not going to give it away. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
The tension is well maintained throughout, as there’s an ever-growing sense of unease for Sam and Rylie. We come to like and root for the couple, so seeing them try and survive the night is filled with dread. The screenplay by Millburn and Dan Kennedy is tight, with no scene lasting too long or feeling unnecessary. The acting is also fantastic, as everybody plays the crazy with an eerie believability, so you are never sure whether or not these people mean to be frighteningly bizarre. Speilberg and Barr are good together, and when they get scared, we are as well.
I read somewhere that Honeydew is “Texas Chainsaw Massacre light.” I beg to differ. I think that if you are a fan of the iconic film, you will love this one. It has a weird family with odd peccadilloes, but there’s something about the film that is distinctly New England in flavor and therefore sets it apart from its spiritual twin. The performances are remarkable, particularly from Kingsley, and I love the script. I can’t wait to see what Dan Kelly and Devereux Milburn do next, whether it’s together or separately.
"…tension is well maintained throughout..."