Honeymoon (2014) If You Go Into the Woods Tonight

Poster for Honeymoon
Upon reading that Sony Pictures have made the decision to remake The Craft, my first reaction was one of horror. Added to this was the news that a newcomer, Leigh Janiak, was slated to direct this new version of the cult hit. Reading up on the proposed director it appears that she may be roughly 12 years old and her only prior credit in the “big chair” was on the 2014 film Honeymoon.

Curious, I checked out the title via IMDb, where the site helpfully informed me that the film was available on Netflix. Reopening my membership amid hamburger wrappers and quickly refilling my coffee cup, I settled down to watch a film that impressed me no end. It could have been titled “If You Go Into the Woods Tonight” with a warped “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” playing in the background.

The story of two young people, both delightfully quirky yet annoyingly cute in their new marriage, who are on their honeymoon, hence the title of the film. The new couple learn that heading back to the lakeside vacation home from the girl’s childhood for the celebration of their new life together is the biggest mistake ever.

Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are the newlywed couple who are nauseatingly in love at the start of the film. It takes Janiak a good 16 minutes to show the audience just how much these two are in tune with one another. While their interaction is a bit on the sickly side, “My Honeybee,” he whispers, “Buzzzz” she replies, putting two fingers on his pursed lips, it does show just why these two are perfect for one another.

Paul and Bea decide to head down to the local restaurant where they find a man breaking lamps and yelling that they are closed. The unhappy owner, Will (played by Ben Huber), then recognizes Bea who he refers to as Trixie and it turns out that they were childhood friends. Will’s wife Annie (Hanna Brown) comes out and tells the couple that they need to leave. Annie does not look well and the disturbed newlyweds leave.

Later, Paul wakes up alone and goes in search of his missing wife. As he stumbles around the dark property surrounding the house and the lake, he comes upon a silent Bea standing motionless in the dark. She is naked and when he touches his wife, she screams.

From this moment on, the film and the couple change. A slow build up of odd events and strange looking “bites” on the inside of Bea’s thighs are just the start of the newlyweds problems. Janiak proves to be a master at allowing the initial breakdown to seem like the jittery nerves of any new couple. She then expertly starts piling on the pressure and the mystery.

At first, the viewer suspects that this could be a “Straw Dogs” type scenario, where heading to the wife’s old stomping grounds opens up all sort of inbred problems. As the film progresses, however, this turns out to be a false lead and as the suspense and fear increase, things turn out to be much worse than a bunch of village idiots attacking the new guy in the local girl’s life

Certainly Janiak looks too young to drive on her own, but in terms of filmmaking, she impresses. Leigh looks more than capable of directing another take on the original The Craft although there is the question of just who will take the roles of these teen witch wannabes.

The Craft (1996) had a brilliant cast, Neve Campbell, Robin Tunny, Fairuza Balk and Rachel True and these ladies will be hard to replace. Especially Balk who knocked her part out of the park. Despite my initial misgivings about the idea of remaking one of my favorite films, I believe that Sony have picked the right person to helm the new Craft film.

If you have not seen Honeymoon, check it out on Netflix. This “If You Go Into the Woods Tonight” will make you jump and think. A great little film, shot for an estimated $1 million, that shows real talent and is a great little cautionary tale about staying in the woods, in a house, by a lake, with no one else around….

Leigh Janiak’s first horror film earns a full 4 out of 5 stars for entertainment value and plot. My advice? Watch it.

The Wild Bunch (1969): Iconic Death

Cover of "The Wild Bunch - The Original D...

I had been hearing that Tony Scott (Deja Vu, The Fan) was in talks with Warner Bros to re-make The Wild Bunch. About a thousand Rolaids later and it looks to be, hopefully, stalled. The last internet mention of this project was August 2011.

Good.

I have a list of films that, in my humble opinion, should never be re-made. Top of the list was True Grit (1969) and of course the Coen Bros re-made it and (he said grudgingly) they did a pretty good job. The big number two on my list is The Wild Bunch.

Director Sam Peckinpah (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Straw Dogs) made a truly iconic western with The Wild Bunch. His story of a band of outlaws trying to cope with the modernizing of the west was brilliant, touching and bloody.

But more than anything else, it was a last’ hurrah’ for Sam. I think it is the best film he ever made and that’s throwing  Ride the High Country into the mix. Both films were autumnal westerns, but each were autumnal in different ways.

Ride the High Country told of two ‘old’ gunmen who hold onto the old ways and in doing so defeat a new type of outlaw. The Wild Bunch tells of a group of older bandits who are struggling to cope with the ‘new west.’

The Wild Bunch was made in a small Mexican town that agreed to hold off getting electricity until Sam finished filming. I learned this little bit of information from a featurette on blu-ray edition of the film. The ‘making of’s’ on the DVD were damn near as good as the film.

Casting for Wild Bunch was spot on. Sam used the crème de la crème of the character actors available at that time:

William Holden (as Pike Bishop), Robert Ryan (as Deke Thornton),  Ernest Borgnine (as Dutch Engstrom), Ben Johnson and Warren Oates (as the Gorch brothers), Edmond O’Brien ( as Freddie Sykes) and Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones as two of the rag-tag group of bounty hunters.

The film opens with the Bunch robbing a bank. Unbeknownst to them, a special posse of bounty hunters put together by Railroad man Mr Harrigan (Albert Dekker) are waiting; scattered through the town in hiding spots. This is all happening against the backdrop of a Temperance Revival Meeting and Parade.

When the Wild Bunch leave the bank, timed to coincide with the parade passing in front it, (they’ve spotted the posse), the bounty hunters open fire. The resulting gun battle  ends with scores of towns people killed and injured and very few of the intended targets hit.

*Just a quick word about character actor Albert Dekker. Dekker had a long and  diverse career as an actor. The Wild Bunch was his last film. While the film was being edited, Dekker was found in his locked apartment in his locked bathroom, dead. It was very suspicious and unfortunate (Dekker was engaged to be married). The details of his death has been recounted in Hollywood Babylon II Kenneth Angers gritty book about the ‘dark’ side of Hollywood.

Back to the fiim. The outlaws notice that the person apparently leading the posse is old gang member Deke Thornton. Thornton had been caught and put in prison, This was his chance to ‘go straight’ by helping to catch the rest of the gang.

The rest of the film follows the outlaws and their flight from the posse. We get a bit of back story on Pike and Thornton. More importantly we learn that this group of outlaws have a code. We also learn that the posse does not. Peckinpah shows repeatedly that in the class system of the old west, the posse are the ‘dirtbags’ of that era.

The posse seem to be made up of  ‘hillbillies’ who scratch and claw for the spoils of their freshly killed targets. The outlaws on the other hand, seem almost dignified, even the Gorch’s.

The Wild Bunch gained notoriety when it first opened for the amount of blood spilled in each gun battle. Actually blood spurted would be a better description. The bloodshed combined with the slow motion almost balletic death scenes led to many critics panning the film outright.

But Peckinpah’s genius won out. It was well received by the audience and has been a cult favourite for years. One of the films most iconic scenes, the long walk, Peckinpah made up on the spot. It was not in the script and Sam turned to his AD and said, “I want them to do a walking thing.” [sic]

I would recommend to anyone that The Wild Bunch be seen at least once. Preferably the director’s cut. Once you have seen this breathtakingly original film you will wonder why on earth would anyone try to re-make perfection.