Newlyweds Mark (Max Ingrao) and Nicole (Laura Keightley) decide to celebrate their honeymoon with a canoe trip out in the wilderness. For some, this is a romantic getaway. For those of us who saw Deliverance, it can’t be a good idea. For Mark and Nicole, things start out good enough but fall apart when Nicole witnesses a murder in a backwoods drug deal gone awry.
Unfortunately for Nicole, she was spotted by the drug dealers and after they track her and Mark down, they shoot Mark and leave him to die while they kidnap Nicole. While sons Clay (David Squires) and Ferris (Logan Brown) argue over what to do with their captive, father Harley (Barry Lavender) decides to keep her to himself. At first he just locks her up, but as she reminds him of an ex-wife of hers that he was actually fond of, Harley decides to treat Nicole to more than a few tastes of his drug supply. Drugged up and out of it, Nicole has little options for escape, and besides, she’s starting to enjoy the drugs.
The local park rangers are on the case, however, as Nicole was able to get a short distress call out before losing her phone (though it was near unintelligible). As the drug dealing gang of three try to cover their tracks, the rangers start putting the pieces together. Oh, and there’s also the little business of Mark not actually being dead, and he’s on his way to rescue his wife.
Rob Rowatt’s The Honeymoon actually plays far more tame than I imagined it would, probably due to my years of conditioning by cabin-in-the-woods-style horror flicks, torture porn and the aforementioned Deliverance. It has some rough moments of violence, and it’s definitely a nightmare of a honeymoon for the young couple, but it’s also a tale of a lonely guy, albeit a murderous, drug-making-and-dealing guy, who misses his ex-wife. Whether you dig the layers the film develops, at least it tries to have some.
Of course, not all of them come together. When Mark reveals to his wife early on, complete with flashback, that he watched a friend get mauled by a bear during a canoe trip in his youth, it comes off less as traumatic and more as randomly humorous. It also makes you question why they’re on a canoe trip for their honeymoon, considering the baggage he’s carrying around.
Additionally, while we’re on the subject of Mark, his return from the assumed dead and quest to find his wife doesn’t always play that convincing; he’s no Rambo, let’s put it that way. He also is off screen and out of mind for so long you often wonder what he’s doing, and when you do find out, wonder what’s taking him so long. Simply, the film knows Harley and Nicole is a more interesting story to tell than Mark rescuing Nicole, and focuses that way. Unfortunately, the result is a narrative imbalance that sometimes makes it hard to care about the newlyweds getting reunited at all.
On the technical side of things, the film has that blown-out, gruff look that early digital video was known for (as opposed to some of the smoother lo-fi looks you can get nowadays). The overall effect looks slightly better than VHS, but lacks any strong contrast, giving a flat image. It looks about as good as I would suspect that it can, however, so the limitation isn’t in the skill of the camera department.
And on another plus side, Barry Lavender’s portrayal of Harley is very entertaining to watch. It’s on the border of scenery chewing, but he pulls it just shy of the cliff most of the time, staying engaging instead of comically over-the-top. When the film stumbles, and it does here and there, he tends to be the touchstone that brings you back.
Overall, The Honeymoon was what I consider to be a competent, middle ground film. Which is to say, it’s not great, but it does quite a bit good in it and for the most part those involved seem to know what they’re doing. Likewise, it’s not horrible, but it has its moments where it’s either too clichéd and predictable, or unfortunately goofy (such as the bear mauling I mentioned above); not quite dingy enough to be grindhouse fare, but it does come close.
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