Honeydew (2021) Won’t Be to Everyone’s Taste and That’s Okay
First Non-Festival Release: March 12, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Devereux Milburn
Writer: Devereux Milburn, Dan Kennedy
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Starring: Barbara Kingsley, Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Young couple Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) and Rylie (Malin Barr) find their worlds changing after an ill-fated trip to the countryside for Rylie’s botany research. After getting busted for camping on someone’s property and unable to start their car, the duo hike to a nearby house to stay the night and call for a jump. They are greeted by an overly indulgent elderly woman named Karen (Barbara Kingsley) who makes it her mission to feed them and let them rest. Soon, bizarre hallucinations and intense cravings will take over their minds as they discover the true madness underneath the sickly-sweet façade of the farm.
It has its pitfalls, but Honeydew packs a solid punch of backwoods survival horror worthy of anyone’s palate.
Honeydew is an off-beat movie that is getting a lot of undeserved flack for being something different. It’s an interesting mix of arthouse horror and backwoods survival flick but it’s a combination that makes it stand out from the rest of the recent films that are set in mountains or woods with similar plots. It wavers between getting the pace perfect and completely dragging out a scene. The slow-burn dread of the film works so well except for the few scenes that kill the tension by lingering far too long.
The film implements split screen and other bold choices for transitions when presenting the story. While initially jarring, it does grow on the viewer and become integral to how the story plays out. Boasting strong visuals, especially during nightmare sequences, everything in Honeydew feels as unhinged and wild as the dreams of Sam and Rylie once they are lulled into the trap. This complements the interesting sound design. Whispered chants, tapping, scraping metal, and other sounds are amplified to almost excruciating levels to knock the viewer around a bit.
The plot of Honeydew hinges on the character’s inability to interact with the world once introduced to certain elements. It feels more of an excuse rather than something that truly serves the story. A few scenes get very awkward due to a combination of so-so writing and over restrained directing choices. A great example of this is a conversation between three characters in a tent that drags on way too long to induce tension or provide relevant backstory. Once you get over the confounding choices the protagonists make, it becomes a much more palatable experience.
Barbara Kingsley gives a delightful performance as the sweet yet control-hungry matriarch who does whatever she can to be dominant in a situation, which is very unique considering her character. Karen’s almost overwhelming sweetness permeates into everything she does. From her voice to her reactions, she only wavers momentarily when she is tested towards the end. She’s a compelling character amongst more typical archetypes in this sort of film. The rest of the cast does a fine job portraying their characters until they need to portray a more subdued version of themselves. It borders on the ridiculous and becomes more laughable than creepy the longer you are exposed to it.
A wavy film with plenty of interesting things to say, Honeydew will catch you off guard with the deeper meaning behind its otherwise ordinary story. There’s a clear repetition of juxtaposing food with television and religion. It’s no shock that it is set in a rural area that has been hit hard by the realities of country living. Sam and Rylie represent the educated people who “know better” and can explain away circumstances. Whereas Karen and those in her community must make meaning out of their circumstances through what they have, which is primarily their faith and what they can access on the television. The concept of being punished for over consumption and the beauty of sacrifice is interesting when Sam and Rylie better represent over consumption. Furthermore, it’s hardly a noble sacrifice when Karen is choosing who is sacrificed and who reaps the benefits.
A whirlwind of offbeat directorial choices makes Honeydew an engaging and unique watch even if it doesn’t quite reach the promise of its familiar premise. What it lacks in story and character development it more than makes up for in visceral experiences and sensory overload. There isn’t much that I would classify as “bad” here but can certainly see why this film isn’t to many viewers’ taste. Stacked against some truly frightening and disturbing sequences is a psychological tale of the horrors of simplicity. It won’t leave you stuffed but Honeydew will leave you satisfied enough to crave even more once you finish.
Overall Score? 6/10