Devereux Milburn’s Honeydew is a very strange movie. In fact, let’s just leave it at that. Honeydew = Strange, review over. Not enough? No problem, but I’d steer clear of this one if you can’t handle uncomfortable dinner table conversations or death-by-a-thousand-cuts scenarios where every fiber of your being screams get out!! but you’re too polite to hightail it to safety. Milburn’s anxiety-riddled debut places an on-the-rocks couple in a painfully uncomfortable farmhouse where they are forced to play nice while waiting for a tow truck driver. That eerie quality runs through the entire film but dissipates in a climax that is more Sawyer Family dinner party than Lynchian Luncheon.
Written and directed by Devereux Milburn, with an additional story credit for Dan Kennedy, Honeydew celebrated its world premiere at the Nigtstream Film Festival. The eerie farmland freakfest stars Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D’Ambrose, Jamie Bradley, Joshua Patrick Dudley, as well as a surprising guest appearance from Lena Dunham in one of the stranger finale reveals you’re likely to see this year.
Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) and Riley (Malin Barr) are forced off their backwoods campsite after discovering they’ve mistakenly pitched a tent on a farmer’s private property. Sam is an aspiring actor who spends his spare time rehearsing for an upcoming audition, but for this weekend he is Riley’s research assistant. She’s brought them out to this particular patch of America’s Heartland to study an infectious strain of wheat that recently devastated crops, decimated livestock, and ruined the lives of countless families that made their living working the land. Anyone or anything that consumes this tainted wheat for a prolonged period time fell victim to a whole host of terrible side effects. Think, Salem witch era madness vis-a-vis moldy, hallucinogenic bread.
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Unable to call AAA for a boost after their car won’t start, Sam & Riley ask to use the phone at a nearby farmhouse. Unable (or unwilling) to turn down the farmer’s hospitality, the young couple make themselves comfortable while they wait for a helpful neighbor to come give them a boost. Riley has pretty bad vibes about the whole scene right away but she can’t seem to pull Sam away from the generosity of their host, Karen. As if Karen as put Sam into a meat-induced trance, Riley can do nothing but watch as they become more and more settled in the strange house, waiting for help that may never come.
Visually, there is plenty to love about the look and feel of Honeydew (including some pretty rad split-screen sequences). Every set has 100 short stories of untold sadness behind it and you can really feel that in each scene. There’s a hypnotic quality to the stuck-in-time nature of Karen’s farmhouse as though not only the world, but all sense of logic and reason has passed it by. Somehow, these two lost souls find themselves getting settled into the basement bedroom despite it’s “serial-killer den” aesthetic. For Sam, someone who was recently forced to give up red meat, sugar, flour, and everything else worth eating, it’s as though he’s stumbled into a witch’s candy cottage. If only he could see past the treats in the fridge, he might pick up on Karen’s blackened fingertips or the unnerving glassy-eyed gaze that only Riley seems to notice.
There is a foreboding sense of unease oozing from Honeydew in it’s strongest moments as if Sam and Riley have slipped into a bizarre dreamlike world of madness. Those chunks of the film where I was trying to make sense of the weirdness at the heart of these characters were my favorite bits. Every odd interaction with Karen and her brain-damaged adult son sucked the air out of the room breath by breath. Unfortunately, that uncomfortably didn’t stay with me during the finale when Karen takes center stage to explain what life on the farm really looks like. I don’t think it’s worth spoiling anything here (although you may see where that road is headed early on) but it’s a classic less-is-more scenario where my puzzling over what the f*ck is happening in this place? is what really grabbed me. Honeydew is firing on all cylinders in those anxiety amped sequences but its climax reveals a slightly different film that feels in line with more by-the-books rural horror.
“There is a foreboding sense of unease oozing from Honeydew in it’s strongest moments as if [you’ve] slipped into a bizarre dreamlike world of madness.”
Devereux Milburn’s Honeydew celebrated it’s World Premiere at the Nighstream Film Festival. Click HERE to see all our coverage of the fest, and get in touch with the Nightmare on Film Street fam over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the horror movie fiend club on Facebook! For more horror straight to your inbox, be sure to join the Neighbourhood Watch!