Films have a never-ending potential to be divisive...
...Everything from personal preference to ethics could contribute to our feelings about the art we consume. Many of us seek nourishment from films almost as voraciously as food and defend our choices in both with equal passion. What one person thinks is good may completely repulse another. From the what to the how of things, we know we are all able to coexist with our differing opinions, but the possibility of a heated debate is always just below the surface.
Honeydew is one of those films that will surely divide the dinner table.
Writer-director Devereux Milburn’s Honeydew begins with a couple, Sam (Sawyer Spielberg in his debut) and Rylie (Malin Barr), on a drive across a very rural area in anywhere-USA. We see an informational video talking about a bacterium found in wheat, which Rylie seems to be invested in on a career-level, and Sam rehearsing some lines for an audition of sorts. Upon losing cell service, the two decide to camp for the night in a wheatfield. Why not? They’re still young.
A brush with the supposed owner of the land they’re camping on sends the couple to their now-dead car and then on a walk for cell reception, maybe ice cream, maybe a psycho backwoods family, maybe just a good time. While wandering, Sam and Rylie stumble across a conveniently located country house whose owner, aptly named Karen (Barbara Kingsley magnificently playing a batshit crazy old lady), introduces them to her son, Gunni (Jamie Bradley). We also learn of Sam’s recent dietary change, cutting out red meat among other things, and Rylie’s status as a vegan. Sam’s commitment to this dietary shift is quickly tested; with his car still dead and them very much still in the woods, he ends up eating some for a midnight snack.
While Honeydew starts to put its pieces together, it barely sets the table before descending into a fever dream. Fortunately, Milburn clearly has a consistent and skilled approach to the actual camerawork, which occasionally saves the film from its messier moments, weaving split perspectives into a single frame and staying away from close-ups to help establish how “in the sticks” we are. When the plot starts to hint at the macabre, like who Gunni really is, the overall structure gets very blurry. It’s less Lynchian endearing awkwardness and more of an identity crisis that wants to make us think there will be some kind of grossness at some point. The hinted at grossness, always potentially a ton of fun, never reached an extreme for me. The practical effect makeup we see is pretty solid, but there’s so little of it we wonder what else it could have achieved.
Though the structure jumps around enough to make the audience think it might be some kind of giant puzzle, it’s clear the story is just lost with no ulterior motive. Luckily, the performances keep everything interesting and are enough to outweigh most issues with the plotline. Malin Barr and Sawyer Spielberg are very believable, reasonable characters; they make the journey to figure out exactly what they’ve gotten themselves into incredibly entertaining. Barbara Kingsley’s batshit crazy Karen is nothing too unique, but she’s damn good at it. These three alone carry the story along and hold it together enough to salvage the film as a whole.
Though Honeydew’s story seems to be grasping at straws for momentum and mood, the interesting camerawork and solid acting make it worth a watch. I’d personally like to see what Milburn would do at the helm of a pure mystery/thriller type of film. Fans of gross-out body horror may find their cravings less than satisfied, but fans salivating over the horror/thriller aspect will resonate with the characters and at least find Honeydew a worthy meal.
Honeydew comes to VOD, Digital HD and DVD from Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting April 13th.
By Zach Gorecki
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