The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - HONEYDEW | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - HONEYDEW

New to Prime Video - HONEYDEW
Stuck in rural New England, a young couple calls to a secluded farmhouse...

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Devereux Milburn

Starring: Malin Barr, Sawyer Spielberg, Barbara Kingsley, Jamie Bradley

honeydew poster

A brief look at the plot summary of writer/director Devereux Milburn's feature debut Honeydew may cause you to dismiss it as the sort of generic grindhouse thriller you've sat through a hundred times already. A couple of city slickers find themselves stuck in a creepy corner of rural America – what more can be done with this tired trope? Well on the evidence here it's a premise that still has legs, as Milburn has managed to deliver a horror movie that is paradoxically familiar and unpredictable.

honeydew review

The city slickers in question here are botanist Rylie (Malin Barr) and her struggling actor boyfriend Sam (Sawyer Spielberg; yep, he is indeed Steven's boy). While most of these movies tend to take place in the Deep South, Rylie and Sam are in rural New England, where the former hopes to study a rare contamination of corn that has devastated the region's farming community.

After pitching a tent in a field, the pair are rudely awakened late at night by a farmer who informs them they're trespassing on his property. Rylie and Sam agree to leave, only to find their car refuses to start. Wandering the area in search of a phone to call the AAA, they stumble across the secluded home of dotty pensioner Karen (Barbara Kingsley) and her hulking brain dead son Gunni (Jamie Bradley), who is left in a near zombified state after apparently being kicked in the head by a bull a year ago. With help unable to arrive that night, Rylie and Sam reluctantly accept Karen's offer to stay the night in Gunni's basement bedroom. I won’t spoil the rest, but needless to say, Rylie and Sam should have kept walking.

honeydew review

Milburn has a lot of fun exploiting our familiarity with backwoods slashers, and he mines a rich vein of black humour from the awkwardness between Rylie and Sam and their seemingly senile host. Rylie and Sam make for two of the more relatable horror protagonists we've seen lately. They're the sort of couple we all know, who seem constantly on the edge of breaking up but whose relationship outlasts those of all their friends. There's something very real in how cruel and snide they are to one another, displaying a level of bickering that only comes in a relationship that is secure and comfortable. This manifests itself when Karen offers a meal of juicy steak followed by cupcakes, a meal Rylie has forbidden Sam from enjoying, having recently converted him to veganism. Sam tucks in, experiencing almost orgasmic delight while Rylie looks on in disgust.

Barr and Spielberg have a great goofy chemistry together, with much of their communication coming in knowing looks as they become increasingly baffled by the scenario they've stumbled across. Kingsley is a hoot as Karen, keeping us guessing as to whether she really is as doddery as she appears or if it's simply an act to disguise some sinister intentions.

honeydew review

Behind the camera, Milburn makes a striking debut. He moves the camera in unsettling, off-kilter ways to add to the growing unease. He'll often pan across to reveal empty space, subverting our expectations of a jump scare reveal. Sometimes the camera moves in a manner that suggests it hasn't tracked or panned, but rather the image itself is being dragged across the screen, like a horny poltergeist pulling a bedsheet off a sleeping cheerleader. Add in a deeply weird score by composer John Mehrmann that sounds like a werewolf having a wank, a bizarre dream sequence and a supporting cast of hillbilly oddballs, and you have a movie that keeps you on your toes despite its familiar ingredients. If the final act appears to be running out of steam, stick around for an ending that serves as a wicked punchline to what has been a cruel joke on Milburn's part.

 is on Shudder UK now.