Honeydew – Assured, creative and thoroughly disturbing

Honeydew is available to rent or buy from 29th March

One of the biggest mistakes made in modern horror is the belief that gore trumps atmosphere. I cannot begin to tell you how many horror movies I sit through where directors mistakenly believe a bloody body count will gain them a coveted four or five-star review. Writer/director Devereux Milburn clearly understands this; his movie layered with tension, artistry and stunning sound design from the opening scenes. And while the story may not explore anything particularly new within the broader genre, its delivery is nothing short of breathtaking and terrifying.

Botanist in training Rylie (Malin Barr) and her struggling actor boyfriend Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) sit in a hot car, their minds engulfed by a series of individual objectives as they drive. Their destination is a small farming community nestled in rural New England. One devastated by a mass corn contamination many years prior; the livestock laid to waste in one fell swoop. The reason for their trip, Rylie’s thesis, with Sam merely along for the ride. However, all is not sweetness and light between our city slickers, both wrapped in their individual desires and careers rather than their floundering relationship.

The mood of the couple is not improved when their temporary campsite is deemed problematic by a landowner. The couple packing up their belongings in the middle of the night only to find their car no longer wishes to start. And as they explore the local area looking for a phone, they stumble across the secluded home of the elderly Karen, (Barbara Kingsley). Here, they find themselves invited in for a meal as they await support. However, Karen’s love of cooking hides a far more deadly and vile secret.

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Taking clear inspiration from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, it would have been easy for Honeydew to fall into tried and tested horror cliches. It is, therefore, all the more impressive that the resulting film feels fresh, unique and different. Much of this is achieved through outstanding sound design, cinematography and performances; Honeydew’s slow pace cranking up the tension with each scene. Unlike many horrors, Milburn has no desire to bathe his story in blood and gore. Instead, he embraces the power of shadows, unseen torment, vulnerability and sound—his directorial style embracing the intensity of Tobe Hooper and Dario Argento. But, when this style meets the unique and terrifying score of John Mehrmann, Honeydew truly finds an engaging and menacing voice.

Milburn relishes the opportunity to play with viewer expectations, continuously turning corners that subvert the expected journey. This not only leaves the audience disorientated but allows Milburn to perform his final trick. His finale wrapping the audience in a harrowing, visceral and unexpected conclusion. And as the credits rolled, I could not help but wonder where Milburn will choose to take us next. His jump from short films and music videos to feature-length movies both assured, creative and thoroughly disturbing.

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