Honeydew is a seriously twisted (and deeply uncomfortable) new film from feature debut director Devereux Milburn. Visceral visual cues are reminiscent of Ari Aster, and his work on films Hereditary and Midsommar. This is not crowd-pleasing horror—I can already see people hating the slow-burn nature of the narrative or overwhelming hopelessness of the impossible situation. For those craving gripping thrills, Honeydew is overflowing with originality in execution and pulse-pounding suspense.
Here’s a setup familiar to any horror fan (and stop me if you’ve heard this one before): a young couple with car trouble (Sawyer Spielberg as Sam and Malin Barr as Rylie) seek shelter in a creepy farmhouse. Once inside the home of the strangest Karen (Barbara Kingsley) you’ll ever meet, things take a turn for the weird. Sam and Rylie decide to sit down for dinner while they wait for their car to be serviced, joined by Karen and her mumbling, spaced-out son (Jamie Bradley). What follows is an increasingly bizarre series of hallucinations, disturbing visuals, and the wildest celebrity cameo I’ve seen in a very long time.
An unnerving score batons down the hatches on a mood-setting swig of creepy atmosphere. Nearly every moment of the film is noise, movement and cutting score. It’s an anxiety-inducing plunge into madness. A bland heterosexual sex scene becomes a cringe-inducing display of the music’s ironclad grip on the viewer. Only cutting to black, reflective of the way the characters themselves blackout, can give a moment’s reprieve.
To go with the effective score from John Mehrmann, visuals are equally unsettling. A snaking straw that fills a small jar of milk becomes a sinister red flag in the hands of Devereux Milburn. Even cartoons take on a nightmarish quality, juxtaposed against the jarring, haunting brutality. A scene where Karen, smiling wide, stares the couple down as they stand on her porch sent chills up my spine. Barbara Kingsley’s fantastic turn as Karen suggests a convincing argument for more ‘scary old timer’ movies like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit. The final act cranks up the garish visuals to their squirmy extremes.
If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had a baby with Hereditary, and you tossed in some Tusk-like body horror, you’d come close to pinning down the tone of Honeydew. It’s a singular horror film, a bold and unique, yet dark and depraved arthouse indie presenting Devereux Milburn as a visionary director. Honeydew’s themes and signature moments will stick to me like a nasty, sticky substance you just can’t clean off. Honeydew comes to VOD and digital platforms on Tuesday, April 13th.