If eerie and creepy were the key notes the filmmakers behind this movie wanted to run with, then they certainly succeed on that front. It may not be a scary horror in any way but the shattering marriage theme, coinciding with a good level of tension helps this unique story mess with your mind as you watch it go on.
Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) are a newly wed couple and go to a wooden cottage in the woods for their honeymoon. At first everything is great until Paul begins to notice little things that are different about his wife. After more nights it’s clear that Bea is a changed woman and something out there in the darkness could have an ulterior motive utilising Bea and her relationship with Paul.
It’s a stand out feat of work for a debut directing job. Leigh Janiak helms the directorial duty on her first feature film and she works with her actors, the sound technicians and the flesh of this engaging story with a defined dark knack. Janiak clearly has an eye for strained situations and confined spaces of close ups help rack up the tension of this unraveling marriage. She also takes the cliched cabin in the woods setting and plays with that prior horror movie knowledge and uses it sparingly to never become predictable. In fact the plot is very good in not being an out and out slasher or overly forced jumpy number, it’s about the marriage and as that dwindles you get the feeling of hairs standing up on the back of your neck. It’s a diminishing love story that gives the horror room to survive and thrive.
Heather McIntosh who provided the music, does a great job in playing around with twinkling nice sounds for their first arrival and subsequent outings on the lake and such, but she can do worrying too with drawn out ominous tones in the music making the entire film unsettling to watch. The sound overall is impressive and really aides the tense story get told.
It’s an odd yet somehow fascinating plot. Janiak and Phil Graziadei have written a somewhat slow yet bubbling character focus that just happens to twist and deform into a horror movie. There are some gross out moments that will appeal to lovers of squeal, a lot of ladies however may find these certain bloodier visuals very squeamish, hell, I think everyone will find it shuddering to see. It’s a bold, strange script that works in connecting you to characters and more so with Paul who becomes caught up in a plan bigger than he could imagine.
Treadaway blends emotions greatly. He demonstrates masculine strength every now and then as he screams or tries being dominating to his wife, but it’s a smart act of the writers to make him likable even as he does this because of the fear he is feeling. He can confidently be more down and upset too even shedding a tear as his predicament worsens. Leslie is fantastic and acts her characters journey with sublime ease, so much so that you believe what you’re seeing. She can switch between rage, sadness, love and blank nothingness giving Bea tremendous three dimensional quality.
It may be slow getting into it and moments of tension that could have been racked up higher, fall into pushed on unease but on the whole you can overlook that and a slightly surreal ending that tries and nearly manages to be a cool grander twist of what is going on.
Solid first time directing, brilliant small cast and perfect lead roles combine with tense story and suspenseful sounds to create an intriguing and worrying mood.