Let’s trot out that $7 word we use for movies like “Honeydew” — “obscurant.” As in “Let’s control the release of information, futz around with the frame, the soundtrack and the editing to see if we can lure folks into the mystery.”
But here’s the cheaper description — “twisted,” “creepy,” and “seriously unsettling.”
It’s a vague David Lynch variation on the sort of films Sid Haig has shown up in over the decades — strange for strange’s sake, and kind of sick.
Devereux Milburn uses every trick in his ’70s-cinema-inspired-book to tart up this threadbare 75 minute horror thriller into a 107 minute evening gown.
Malin Barr and Sawyer Spielberg are a mismatched couple heading into the New England countryside so that she research some sort of wheat disease that’s killing cattle. Rylie’s a Phd candidate in botany.
The ill-tempered, distracted mutterer in the driver’s seat of their ancient Saab? Sam is a “waiter/actor” with memory issues and a restricted diet. Rylie’s the one doing the restricting.
They get lost when they lose their cell phone GPS signal, get chased off their unpermitted campsite in the dark. And then the Saab dies, as they were wont to do.
There’s nothing for it but to hoof it to something Rylie spies in the darkness.
“What, the light?”
“No, the darkness SURROUNDING the light.”
Sarcasm is wasted on Sam.
Every encounter they’ve had with the locals has been bizarre, but that’s nothing when compared with the dotty little old lady (Barbara Kingsley) who “Where are my manners?” them through her door, feeds them and lets them wonder just what the hell is going on around here.
There’s no cell service. Her landline only goes so far as “Pete,” an aged peer she summons to give them a jump-start. The family photos on the walls show aged Karen pushing around Cousin It in a wheelchair, and her son (Jamie Bradley) is mute, bandaged and morbidly obese.
“He might look like a chunky monkey now, but time was he’d come in at an even 400!”
Writer-director Milburn hurls every ounce of “technique” he can think of at the screen to dress up this “trapped in the dark” tale into something flashier.
The split-screens, screen wipes and moaning, layered, chanted incantations sound-effects and electronica score scream “70s Cinema.” The random XCU edits and gruesome closeups of bloodied bear traps and weird injuries have “David Lynch” written all over them.
But whizbang editing aside, it’s a slow slog of a movie with a seriously obvious destination.
In his first leading role, Spielberg — you know who’s son — proves adept at acting really annoying. The Swedish-born Barr is properly immersed in her role, such as it is.
There’s just not enough movie surrounding them to make “Honeydew” worth your trouble.
MPA Rating: unrated, blood, sex, profanity
Cast: Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D’Ambrose, Jamie Bradley
Credits: Directed by Devereux Milburn, script by Dan Kennedy and Devereux Milburn. A Dark Star release.
Running time: 1:47