Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.
The real beauty of horror is that as more diverse voices tell their stories, we find out there exist terrors we’ve never personally experienced. Jordan Peele’s Get Out showed non-Black audiences how racist fear and fetishism are ingrained in our daily lives, and Ari Aster’s Midsommar took an unhealthy, abusive relationship to the extreme.
While it can be argued that THE HONEYMOON PHASE attempts to make a statement on women’s autonomy, it repeatedly fumbles the message in its short runtime, coming in at just under 90 minutes.
THE HONEYMOON PHASE focuses on Tom (Jim Schubin) and Eve (Chloe Carroll), who agree to join the Millennium Project, a 30-day research study examining why “the honeymoon phase” fades for couples over time. Motivated by the $50,000 that they’ll receive at the end of the experiment, Tom and Eve pretend to be married and are selected to participate. The two are put under sedation separately before waking up next to each other in their new home, where they are to spend the next month together.
Given that the film opens with Tom telling us that Eve killed herself, it doesn’t take long for things in their new home to seem less than perfect. Tom becomes aggressive and insistent that Eve carry “his” child, and when she becomes pregnant against all odds, Eve finds a side of Tom that’s unlike the man she previously knew.
THE HONEYMOON PHASE goes on to reveal that the Millennium Project is a cloning experiment, inspired by the Director’s (François Chau) deceased wife. While attempting to leave, Eve is forced to choose between two Toms – the implication being that one is the man she entered the study with, and one is the abusive clone. Though the tragic ending of the film may imply that Eve chose the clone who previously harmed her, we really don’t know for sure.
The film’s ambiguity about which Tom was a clone, and if it even matters, suggests questions like, “Did Tom have the potential to be abusive before?” but never tries to answer them. Was Eve doomed no matter which Tom she chose? It almost suggests that no matter what choices they make, women in relationships with men are always at risk. The brief happiness that Eve is allowed from leaving the facility is quickly and literally killed when, in his anger, Tom strangles Eve and then fakes her suicide. If we’re supposed to think of Tom as a monster, why did we give him the microphone?
Furthermore, the “horror” in the movie plays off of abuse we know all too well, to the point that it feels like it’s just going through the motions. There have been so many conversations asking how we can tell stories about graphic experiences without glorifying them: for example, telling a story about rape without actually showing the assault. Throughout the entire movie, we see Tom being aggressive and abusive towards Eve – during sex, in the way he treats her as a person and finally in her death. The horror is in how she is treated, but haven’t we become numb to seeing this abuse over and over? THE HONEYMOON PHASE wants to tell Eve’s story, but it’s in Tom’s voice, with all of her tragedy on display. Tom is given the power to tell the story, validating what he did to Eve.
THE HONEYMOON PHASE has a basic premise of the message it’s trying to send, but it’s lost from the moment we learn this story ends with another dead woman. We know this story already and for once, we’d like to be surprised by the ending.
THE HONEYMOON PHASE will be released theatrically and digitally on August 21, 2020.