An alien presence turns wives into husband-killing monsters in writer-director Leigh Janiak’s feature debut, the indie science-fiction horror film Honeymoon (2014). In their native urban environment (likely New York City), newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) seem like an average (including their quirks) yuppie couple. When they go from city to country (crossing the border into Canada in the process), the ties that bind — along with the gender roles defined by contemporary heterosexual marriage — go out the window when an eerie light shines into it, focusing on new wife Bea.
Borrowing a trope from alien possession movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 / 1978), Janiak and co-writer Phil Graziadei modify it by adding an alien rape/impregnation twist reminiscent of films like Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and the less well-known Japanese cyberpunk splatter flick Meatball Machine (Yūdai Yamaguchi and Jun’ichi Yamamoto, 2005). In the countryside, outside the bounds of urban civilization, the alien presence in the woods near Bea’s family’s lakeside vacation cottage turns her and another (local) married woman, Annie (Hanna Brown), into monster women.
These monster women have no need for their husbands and quickly forget their own individual histories, especially as they relate to their marriages. The women of Honeymoon become monstrous in their feminine sexuality in ways that highlight the abject. Their transformation is marked by strange bruises on their thighs and bubbly, thick secretions from their vaginas, followed by menstrual-like blood flows. Bea gives birth to a phallic alien monster in an unusually tense and grotesque scene.
Is the monstrous-feminine depicted here a metaphor for some kind of radical (lesbian?) feminism? Given the contemporary political climate of the United States, marked by its urban/rural divide, one struggles to make such a linkage based on a story that plays out in the classic ‘cabin in the woods’ horror location. Still, there is a palpable male anxiety to this movie. Paul and his local “alpha male” counterpart Will (Ben Huber), who is Annie’s husband, gradually unravel psychologically as their wives’ speech and behavior become radically different from what they have come to expect.
For Bea and Paul, their idyllic honeymoon starts to fall apart soon after their arrival at the lakeside cottage. Paul’s awkward reference to Bea’s “womb” triggers a shared panic related to the topic of childbearing, about which both partners are ambivalent. Then later, there is the line spoken by the alien presence through Bea to Paul: “We don’t need you.” Under the control of the alien force, Bea believes that she is “protecting” her man by “hiding” him under the waters of the lake, but she is, in fact, destroying him. According to Honeymoon, the outlook for husbands (even the more sensitive kind, as portrayed by Paul) in contemporary American heterosexual culture is not okay.
Honeymoon is currently streaming on Netflix.