The Honeymoon Phase Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Directed by Written and directed by Phillip G. Carroll Jr.
2020, 89 minutes, Not yet rated
Frightfest UK Premiere on 29th August 2020
Jim Schubin as Tom
Chloe Carroll as Eve
François Chau as The Director
Tara Westwood as The Handler
Ione Butler as The Terminal
The Honeymoon Phase marks the feature length directorial debut for writer/ director Phillip G. Carroll Jr and it’s an impressive one that, although is a little rough around the edges, is sure to propel him to bigger things. Also scripted by Carroll Jr and starring Chloe Carroll and Jim Schubin, both relatively unknown but full of fresh-faced energy, the film is high-concept and brimming with first-feature ambition.
Carroll and Schubin play Eve and Tom, young lovers who find themselves in a financial struggle and one that could end Tom’s ambition of being a writer and Eve’s designer aspirations. They hear about The Millennium Project, a 30-day scientific study that analyses the relationships of participating married couples and offering $50,000. They decide to take part, fake being married, and come up with a safe word in case either one of them wants to leave.
Their home, run by a mysterious researcher, is secluded and clinically futuristic, offering everything they need at the touch of a button, and with a holographic projection of a researcher who is there to guide and help. What starts out as a fun experiment becomes a nightmare of isolation and madness. Is there an ulterior motive or is it all just part of the experiment?
From the opening scenes it is clear that the relatively moderate budget has been put to good use, it’s nicely shot with some slick production design. It moves along at a nice pace too, not spending too much time on the set up and getting us to the meat of the film swiftly. This also adds to our sense of empathy with the characters as we share in their confusion and nervous energy.
We get off to an ominous start when, prior to entering their smart homes, we see them briefed, along with other, presumably financially troubled, couples by ‘The Director’ played by François Chau who fans might remember as Dr. Pierre Chang from the hit TV show Lost. The Director explains away the fact that they’ll be put under a general anaesthetic and will wake up in their new home. Wait, what? Is that necessary? Well, they go ahead with it and wake-up side-by-side in futuristic garb like they’re about to go cycling, not spend all their time indoors for 30 days. Where are the sweatpants?
At first, it’s as fun as you’d expect, the perfect home that gives you all you could want, if all what you want is everything delivered down an oldy worldy pneumatic tube. Our lying newlyweds explore their surroundings in a rather nauseating montage of them frolicking about the place, but it serves its purpose so that we can get moving. After the initial joy comes the annoying little behaviors that start to grate on our fake newlyweds and we get an interesting and well observed study of relationships in the early stages.
The turning point comes when Eve confesses to smuggling in LSD cookies creating a layer of ambiguity over what is to come and, when she sees another one of the female subjects beating at their door in terror before being taken away by her husband, things really kick off.
The Honeymoon Phase owes a lot to the likes of The Shining, but mostly Black Mirror with its high concept and sense of real-world issues wrapped up in a dark world of science fiction. Away from its influences, the film is also an interesting, and harrowing look at domestic abuse and is sure to be triggering for some. This is obviously multiplied ten-fold by the new reality we are all living in since COVID-19 came into our lives. The isolation and pressure to be bettering yourself or ‘getting that book written’ is also palpable and is wonderfully crafted.
Chloe Carroll (Eve), the real-life wife of the film’s director, produces and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as someone dealing with changes in her partner and the fear and paranoia that comes with it. Jim Schubin as Tom is also impressive, both are given a lot to do in a solid script.
The film perfectly balances science-fiction, horror and the very real subject of abuse but never feels like exploitation – although there is a scene with a curling iron that we won’t go into right now.
Sadly, our suspension of disbelief is stretched just a little too far at times. It asks us what we would do for enough money to get our lives on track and the answer is; no way any of that! Most people really would walk away at the being put under phase, but we of course need the film to happen.
It’s entertaining, very uncomfortable, sometimes confusing, often baffling, but it’s well put together with a strong concept and solid performances, and it might not necessarily end up where you’d expect.
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