Combustible Celluloid
With: Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D'Ambrose, Jamie Bradley, Joshua Patrick Dudley
Written by: Devereux Milburn, based on a story by Dan Kennedy, Devereux Milburn
Directed by: Devereux Milburn
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 106
Date: 03/12/2021

Honeydew (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Meat Halfway

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While many horror movies are about innocent travelers tangling with rural, backwoods creeps, Honeydew makes the formula bracing again, relying on actual internal logic and an intense, foreboding mood.

Rylie (Malin Barr) is writing her thesis on a strange substance called "sordico" that grows on wheat stalks. She has brought along her out-of-work actor boyfriend Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) on a research road trip. After setting up their tent for the night, a farmer (Stephen D'Ambrose) chases them off his land, and they find their car battery dead.

They head for the only place they can, a nearby farmhouse occupied by the strange Karen (Barbara Kingsley) and her even stranger son Gunni (Jamie Bradley). She promises to call for help and sets out preparing food for her guests. As help continues to not arrive, the couple are forced to spend the night. Sam, who is on a reluctant diet, gets up to secretly sample some of Karen's cooking. But, as the night drags on, everything grows increasingly unsettling, and, soon, flat-out nightmarish.

Directed and co-written by Devereux Milburn, who makes his feature debut, Honeydew begins well, expertly throwing us off balance. Unlike most movies of this type, the traveling couple doesn't really make any dumb mistakes to get into their predicament; it's all just bad luck and circumstance that could happen to anyone. An old-timey educational film on the "sordico" (a seemingly made up word, though related to ergot), and sliding split-screens set things off-balance.

An insidious, nerve-splitting score and sound design takes things into a truly weird realm, alongside the constantly-twittering Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons playing on an old TV screen, and a truly unnerving nightmare sequence, with jumping, lurching logic. It even manages to echo David Lynch (a filmmaker who is notoriously difficult to imitate).

Aside from the sharp filmmaking, though, Honeydew has a queasy side effect, not only because of the icky territory it veers into, but also because of the characters, who, although realistically flawed, mostly turn out to be irredeemable. It's not a comfortable movie by a long shot, and it may even challenge veteran horror fans.

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