FTP: Honeydew (2020)

MARCH 7, 2022


A while back, I was reading an article about Honeydew in Fangoria and came across a passage that left me confused and then delighted. The film's director was talking about his cast, and when it came to one performer in particular he opted not to reveal their name, saying that their persona would cloud people's perception of the film. "That's weird," I thought, "Unless it was like, Lena Dunham, who cares?" So I had to laugh heartily and give myself a little pat on the back when I looked it up and found that it was indeed Ms. Dunham that played a bit role in the film. She's credited, so it's not a spoiler or anything, but he's kind of right - I tend to steer clear of anything with her name.

But I was still curious since the film was about a couple whose car breaks down in New England somewhere (it's never specified which state; someone said "The woods between Pennsylvania and Maine", and I like that!) and, naturally, run afoul of evildoers - i.e. the sort of thing I tend to like just fine. Since Dunham wasn't the female part of the couple I figured whatever role she played wouldn't be enough to derail my enjoyment (or blame her specifically if I didn't like it), so its time in the pile wasn't as long as some others (there are movies that have been in there since said "pile" began its official life as an actual pile before it became a box, and then a bigger box - I really need to get through these faster*).

Anyway, the movie (and Dunham, to be fair!) are fine. If it was 85 minutes I'd probably be considering it a minor gem of the sub-genre, but unfortunately it's more than 20 minutes longer than that, and that's the problem. Long movies are fine if they need to be (I've said before: Titanic could have been longer! They fall in love in between scenes it seems) but this is, you know, a movie about a couple whose car breaks down and they run across some weirdos. Even if you've never seen a horror movie before I think your gut would tell you that the heroes are in deep trouble from the second they knock on the door of the isolated farm, but writer/director Deveraux Milburn stretches the premise into breaking point territory. He doesn't cripple the movie, but he sure gives it a noticeable limp.

Even the nature of what the creepy old lady is up to isn't a surprise. I left it out of the genre tags for those (imaginary?) people who have indeed never seen a horror movie before and are making this their first, but when (hints at the spoiler ahead, skip this paragraph if you don't want a big clue!) the primary discussion of the couple's conversation with the old lady is almost entirely about the issues with the local cows not being OK to eat and also their own vegan diets, you should be able to know exactly just what is in store for them. So you're just kind of waiting for that to happen.

And even when it's finally spelled out, the movie keeps going. Even its epilogue is too long, as if we were watching an assembly cut instead of an edited version. On the commentary they said the movie was shot over 10-11 days, so I can perhaps assume that some of the film's length is due to not having the right coverage to hide edits (indeed, the director even notes a deleted scene that they had to remove entirely due to it not cutting right), but it doesn't change the fact that they're asking a lot of our patience for reveals that won't be too surprising to any astute horror fan (likely the primary audience, given its distribution from my pals at Bloody Disgusting).

But Milburn does get a lot right. The couple is well cast and believable as a strained couple - they're not at each others' throats the whole time like in Children of the Corn or something, but just kind of bored of each other and wanting different things out of life; you get the idea they're both waiting for the other one to break it off so that they can get off easy and are now in a stalemate. And the nature of their obligatory "weird kid", Gunni, is actually fairly inspired - he ended up being the film's most interesting character. Also, Barbara Kingsley is terrific as the old lady, finding that right balance where she's clearly unhinged but never to the point where you question why they aren't running for the hills - it's almost more like they feel bad for her as she's starting to lose her marbles.

The disc is surprisingly packed, with the commentary, a decent behind the scenes piece, a festival Q&A, some of Milburn's short films, and two things I haven't seen for a while: an isolated score (which is quite good) and an "evolution of a trailer" collection that shows how they used more or less the same footage/dialogue in different ways to try to find the most appealing approach. I wish it had some kind of commentary attached to explain the thinking behind this or that, but it's interesting on its own. The commentary mentions the possibility of deleted scenes, but alas if they're there they must be an Easter egg that I had no drive to find.

So it's a terrible "pile" movie as I still don't know if I want to keep it or not! It's pretty good, the kind of thing I like more in hindsight than in watching when I'm constantly thinking things like "How is there stil another half hour?", but I also know that if x number of years from now I decide I want to watch again, I'll be like "Nah it's too long let me find something shorter." But for those who are more patient than me (or simply less attuned to knowing where a movie is headed based on context clues) I'm sure you'll agree it's a pretty good entry in this sub-genre, buoyed by strong performances and some directorial flourishes (split screen effects!) that give it a little more personality than its two line synopsis would suggest.

What say you?

*Thanks to Birth.Movies.Death dying, it thankfully hasn't expanded as much as it might have, as I no longer have any other regular/high profile outlets to write for. So a lot of those review copies that kept the box growing have stopped coming, and I'm actually fine with that. Maybe someday I CAN actually get through the whole thing!



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