FrightFest VOD film review: The Honeymoon Phase
Matthew Turner | On 31, Aug 2020
Director: Phillip G Carroll Jr
Cast: Jim Schubin, Chloe Carroll, Tara Westwood, Francois Chau, Ione Butler, Mike Sutton
Watch The Honeymoon Phase online in the UK: FrightFest 2020
The Honeymoon Phase streams as part of FrighFest 2020 at 1pm on Saturday 29th August. For the full festival line-up and online ticket information, click here
Written and directed by Phillip G Carroll Jr, The Honeymoon Phase centres on unpublished author Tom (Jim Schubin) and his illustrator girlfriend Eve (Chloe Carroll), an engaged couple who agree to lie about their marital status in order to enter a scientific experiment that pays $50,000. As The Director (Francois Chau, nicely cast) of the project explains, the intention of the experiment is to explore whether the honeymoon phase of a relationship can be sustained long term.
After being sedated – all part of the process, but an immediate red flag – Tom and Eve wake up in a remote luxury apartment, where they receive regular check-ins with a holographic handler (Tara Westwood). However, after an early disagreement, things start to go wrong, and Eve becomes more and more paranoid as she grows suspicious of Tom’s behaviour.
The conceit of the film allows Carrol Jr to explore several relatable relationship issues within a sci-fi setting, from general trustworthiness to more specific subjects such as drug-taking or whether or not the couple are on the same page when it comes to having children. Similarly, as the film progresses, the relationship becomes more and more toxic, encompassing gaslighting, manipulation and betrayal.
On top of that, the audience already knows just how badly this is going to go, thanks to a prologue featuring a bearded and clearly bedraggled Tom, telling the camera that something bad happened to his wife on their wedding day. That device helps ramp up the tension, as we wonder just when Eve will reach breaking point.
As well as packing the film with ideas and genre tropes (from soap opera type stuff to proper body horror), Carroll Jr also knows how to deploy a decent twist or two. There are a handful here and they’re nicely paced, particularly in the final act, where they start to stack up like nobody’s business, to almost – but not quite – comical effect.
That’s not to say the film isn’t entirely without problems. For one thing, the performances are a little distancing, as neither Tom nor Eve are particularly likeable, which diminishes the film’s emotional impact. (Schubin also has a weird thing with his eyes in some scenes, which proves quite distracting).
On top of that, the film leaves a few crucial questions unanswered, while also stretching credulity at an early point. Ultimately, both the weirdest and the scariest thing about the film is the designer bookshelf unit in their luxury apartment, which has all the levels tilting at different angles and is extremely disturbing to the eye. Honestly, never mind the rest of the film – the shelves alone are enough to bring you out in a cold sweat.