Honeycomb (CFF) Buzzes Listlessly on the Horrors of Teenage Angst
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Avalon Fast
Writer: Avalon Fast, Emmett Roiko
Runtime: 70 Minutes
Starring: Destini Stewart, Jillian Frank, Sophie Banks-Smith
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2022.
One summer, a group of teenage girls Willow (Sophie Bawks-Smith), Jules (Jilian Frank), Vicky (Mari Geraghty), June (Jaris Wales), and Millie (Rowan Wales) follow Leader (Destini Stewart) into an abandoned cabin in the woods. They decide to make the rustic digs their home and decide to sit down and dictate their conditions of living together. Among these rules they establish are to never reveal the secret location to anyone, to never keep secrets, and to distribute only appropriate revenge for any misdeeds done against them. Inadvertently, they start a cult.
A commendable effort from a well-meaning and plucky team of young filmmakers, Honeycomb isn’t a sweet ride.
DIY microbudget horror films are difficult to do right. It’s possible to create something truly crafty or unsettling on a threadbare budget, as evident by the slew of successes across the history of horror. This teenage cult film, however, gets lost in the rough novelties of its creation. Not without some merit, it is inspiring to see so much effort go into the deeper thematic material of Honeycomb. Apathetic teenage girls coming into their own and taking control of their narrative makes for a compelling film. The problem with Honeycomb comes down to its static approach to storytelling.
Combining confessional style filmmaking with more traditional approaches to the camera makes for a disorienting experience. Characters in Honeycomb whirl around detailing their manifesto against society and social mores while still participating in very traditional teenage dating ceremonies. The teeth come out when members begin violating rules set forth before them and their punishments ensue. Promising material gets blunted right as the film gets going when it ends in a more abrupt manner.
The idea of girls subverting societal norms in favor of creating a world their own is fascinating. Agency is tied into many types of horror, but it hits a deeper nerve in woman centric horror. It’s a shame that the dynamics of the cult aren’t explored more, especially as the rules get more vicious. The power dynamics don’t flow much and there is little interest in exploring why and how members are dispatched. The male teenagers also seem like non-factors as well. Their presence barely offers any conflict and serves more to foil the cohesion and purpose of their female friends. There are plenty of jumping off points for Honeycomb to make magic with its buzzing hive of creative minds, but it never quite makes any honey.
Due to its humble origins, many of the flaws of Honeycomb manifest from its budget. The performances are earnest but uneven, the camera angles feel confined and lack the fluidity one might see in a more steeped in production, and the dialogue is very scattershot. It’s clear that director Avalon Fast has a vision, and her friends are not only invested in her success but determined to do their best to achieve that vision. It’s a testament to her abilities as a young filmmaker and the team’s loyalty to the production.
It’s clear that there is a passion for film and a strong sense of love and comradery amongst the cast and crew. Unfortunately, Honeycomb doesn’t quite land as a finished feature film. There are some truly remarkable moments and ideas articulated in this tale of teenage angst, sweat, and murder but due to rough editing, underdeveloped performances, and distracting sound design gets lost in the heat. All this to say, a bigger budget could make the difference here. Based on some quick research, it looks like $3,000 was used to make Honeycomb a reality. With some better production values, there’s a chance that the talent here will shine brighter. In the end, this hive isn’t for me but if you are into DIY feminist cult horror, it might be worth the buzz.