Honeydew review – flame-grilled rural horror

A pair of city slickers find predictable trouble in deepest New England – but Devereux Milburn’s shocker has an atmospheric edge

A first feature from director of short films Devereux Milburn, co-written by Milburn and the film’s cinematographer-producer Dan Kennedy, this is a stylised, unsettling horror jaunt that plays interesting variations on an all-too-familiar plot premise. Sam and Riley, a good-looking couple in their 20s, played respectively by Sawyer Spielberg (yes, son of Steven Spielberg) and Malin Barr, takes the always foolish decision to leave the safety of the city for a camping trip. In this case, they elect to pitch their tent somewhere in rural New England because Riley is working on a doctoral thesis about a (fictitious) fungal infection in wheat that causes gangrene and madness in cows and people.

However, they soon get run off their campsite by the local farmer (Stephen D’Ambrose), and a flat car battery forces them to seek help at the cluttered homestead of elderly Karen (Barbara Kingsley), a keen baker and cooker of meaty steaks, and her mute, brain-damaged son (Jamie Bradley). The city slickers soon find themselves at the mercy of ravenous desires; but on the plus side, all the TV sets seem to be perpetually tuned to the last station in the world showing nothing but old black and white Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons from the Inkwell Studios’ heyday in the early 1930s, a glorious period in animation, and a good match for the body horror that’s about to be revealed here.

With a running time of 107 minutes, the film goes on just a little longer than it really needs to before it gets predictably violent, grotesque and reasonably scary at last. But Milburn and Kennedy certainly know how to build a unique atmosphere, using liverish lighting schemes, cantered camera angles, unsettling split screens, misleading editing and above all a truly disturbing soundtrack that combines source noise with composer John Mehrmann’s musical score – a mix of synthesizers, unsettling percussive bongs and bubble pops, and what sounds like a theremin having a very bad day.

• Honeydew is released on 29 March on digital platforms.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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