Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon was one of our favourite films at FrightFest (read our review here): a beautifully acted, deeply creepy and suprisingly affecting relationship horror that stars Rose Leslie (Game Of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) as a just-married couple who are suddenly forced to confront the question of how well they really know each other. As Bea’s (Leslie) behaviour becomes erratic, Paul (Treadaway) wonders if he knows her at all…
“I started reading the script and I was really taken in by this loving happy couple from New York and it’s actually quite rare to read a couple in love that doesn’t seem like a couple in love in a movie,” remembers Treadaway. “The fact that it was laced with all this history and detail of what seemed like a real relationship really drew me in, and then as it started to turn and the film started to explore this horrible paranoid fear of the unknown, what happens if the person that you’ve given everything to, that you love and feel like you know each other’s souls backwards, what happens if that person starts to shift and that person starts to become not who you know as them…I suppose it asks the question how well do any of us know who we’re living with.”
“It’s a micro-version of it that anybody in a relationship can relate to. Sometimes you get out of bed and the person seems unknown for some reason, there are those moments, and I thought it tapped into that and the twist towards the end completely pulled the rug from out underneath my feet.”
Honeymoon is essentially a two-hander and relies heavily on the performances of its two leads to keep the audience gripped. Treadaway tells us that the challenge was one of the things that drew him to the project.
“Definitely, yes, and [doing that] with someone as extraordinary and wonderful and brilliant as Rose,” he tells us. “And being helmed by someone as amazing as Leigh, so between us three it felt like we had a really close bond. We only had maybe 10 days out in North Carolina before shooting, so me and Rose spent as much time together as possible and talking about all of the backstory and the history and fleshing out all the details. It was really fantastic, we just connected really well and it was brilliant, the momentum with which you can gather when it’s basically one location and one other actor. And this really kind of intimate story was a real appeal of the film and I think it’s quite rare.”
“From the get go,” he enthuses. “She will say this herself, she’d turn up to the production meetings and members of the crew would assume she was someone’s assistant because she’s a very young looking female and you’re not expecting her to be so assured and for her first film she was incredibly…she was all over it in terms of the shots, in terms of the tone and the pacing, and also a joy to collaborate with as well. So we felt like she had a really strong vision of it and yet was able to…what’s the word…marinade [laughs]! We were all able to work together on it as well, she was brilliant. And it was sensitive stuff; there were lots of really intimate things that were going on so to have her strength and her vision behind it was really essential to be honest.”
That intimacy makes the subsequent horror all the more traumatic. As Paul struggles to understand what’s happening to Bea, the audience is just as much in the dark. “I really liked that part of the script because when I was reading it, when it starts to shift I felt that I was as a reader unsure as to who was losing what.”
“Really there are themes in it which you could pick up and translate to a film about someone who had a car crash and suffered amnesia or someone who was suffering mental illness or someone who had a stroke. You are questioning just what is going on and that was what excited me about reading it, was that constant unsurety until the end. What I felt really drawn is how strong it can be if you have a real drama, a genuine drama going on and you just sort of flick it with a twinge of the other.”
Treadaway is hardly a stranger to the genre after his excellent work in Sky Atlantic series Penny Dreadful, in which he plays Dr Victor Frankenstein. “I’m absolutely having the time of my life playing Dr Frankenstein. He’s such a layered, complex strong vulnerable poetic scientific punk rock and roll genius doctor of the Victorian age that you just it’s a constant delight to go and work on that set. And with the other actors and with John’s writing, it’s really brilliant; I’m absolutely loving it.”
However, despite our pressing, Treadaway tells us that he can’t tell us anything about Season 2. “My lips are stitched shut,” he laughs. “I couldn’t tell you, I’d have to kill you. But it’s very exciting and like all of John’s writing you never know where it’s going to go and it’s very exciting. Just started filming last week and yes, I wish I could tell you more but I won’t, I can’t! They’ll shoot me!”
Penny Dreadful Season 2 might be a long way off but Honeymoon is in cinemas now and Treadaway couldn’t be prouder of it. “It’s a gamble that everyone takes involved in creating a fictional world that hopefully people will believe in and be moved by in some way so when it does, if you feel like in some way that’s happened then that’s a really good feeling, and with a small film to get made without any distribution on a very low budget in a very small space of time, when that happens that’s something to be proud of.”
Honeymoon is in UK cinemas now. Keep up with the latest horror news with the new issue of SciFiNow.