Monday, October 28, 2019

“Get Some Buckets!” - Honeymoon Horror (1982) - Film #158

Two of the most fertile time periods for underrated cinematic classics are the periods just before and just after the slasher movie boom initiated by Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). Honeymoon Horror (1982) is a perfect example of a clever slasher film that is woefully disrespected by your universe's top critics.

Reviewer Zantara Xenophobe writes, "There are way too many dumb points to this movie to mention....Originally, I thought about giving this film a 2, but the more I thought about it, the more I hated it." Reviewer poolandrews writes, "On a technical level the film is generally very poor and a bit of an eyesore to watch." Reviewer trashgang writes, "The acting is sometimes as wooden as it can get." Please read on to understand the true terror of Honeymoon Horror...

A husband and wife verbally spar in their house, which the wife describes as on an island.

“Have dinner ready for me?” The husband says as he heads out for a night of bowling.

“Don’t I always?” The wife counters.

The husband leaves the house, walking along a dock and climbing into a motorboat (which is, of course, required for bowling when one lives on an island). Surprisingly, the wife also leaves the house, smiling lasciviously to herself as she walks next door to meet the shirtless Victor.

But the husband has forgotten his cigarettes, so he also walks next door to Victor’s house, where he hears his wife and Victor carrying on. A fight ensues, resulting in the wife smashing a bottle over her husband’s head, which eventually causes another bottle to fall over, only to explode and set the husband’s head ablaze.

After the title sequence, we see a police car scream down a country road, siren blaring, and park in front of a gas station. When the sheriff and deputy get out of the car, however, they appear to be in no particular hurry. They exchange pleasantries with a young woman named Kelly carrying a bag full of decorations, who explains the situation. “Three of my sorority sisters are getting married tomorrow and me and some of my friends—you know, Robin and Jill—we’re going out to decorate the honeymoon cabin.” She drives away while the sheriff either ogles her or gives her the stink eye (the sheriff’s expressions are mysteriously hard to interpret).

The sheriff’s emergency appears to be that he is out of cigars and needs to buy them at the convenience store. Fortunately for the audience, the woman cashier, Marlo, explains more of the backstory. “Well, I guess you heard: Mrs. Marlowe—I mean, she’s now Mrs. Carlton—has redone the lodge out on Lovers’ Island. Married her husband’s ex-Army buddy and they’re gonna get the business started again.”

Amusingly, the sheriff treats the deputy as if he’s a four-year old: “Jerry, come on, get your act on the road. Get your goodies, your bubble gum, and go to the bathroom, ‘cuz we’re not gonna stop here after this.”

Next, we watch the sheriff and deputy drive down more country roads, discussing fishing for several long minutes.

At the lodge on Lovers’ Island, Mrs. Carlton turns out to be the woman from the opening, and Mr. Carlton turns out to be Victor, her former lover. They explain to each other, perhaps needlessly, that nobody suspects them of murdering her previous husband. “The sheriff bought it, and the insurance company bought it,” she says, “and that’s all that matters.”

She adds that she wants to build a successful business so they can eventually sell the resort and “live wealthily ever after. Very wealthily.”

Meanwhile, Joe the caretaker and Emily the maid go about their business, though not without some conflict between themselves. “You get away from me, you dirty old man,” Emily says in her undoubtedly accurate British accent to Joe, who is simply raking leaves. She walks away, then adds to nobody, “This place fair gives me the willies. I’ll be glad to get ‘ome tonight.”

Soon, Kelly and her sorority sisters Robin and Jill dock their tiny motorboat at a dock and climb up some steps to reach the lodge. They explain to the Carltons that they want to decorate the three honeymoon cabins to surprise their three friends who are getting married. Kelly and the others hang streamers in the rooms, along with witty, hand-scrawled signs that say “MARRIED MEN DO-IT BETTER” and “VIRGINS NEED NO URGIN.”

For unknown reasons, their decorations also include a paper Halloween skeleton, which one of the girls attempts to hang in the closet, also for unknown reasons—but when she opens the closet door, the body of the maid Emily falls out.

Meanwhile, Kelly sits by the boat on the dock, waiting for her friends to finish decorating. She falls asleep in an extremely uncomfortable-looking position, only waking up after darkness has fallen. She is awakened by a man arriving at the dock—a man who raises a machete and hacks poor Kelly to pieces.

The next day, the Carltons wake up, assuming the girls and Emily have taken the boat back to the mainland.

In a fascinating interlude, the filmmakers cut back to the sheriff on the mainland. They park their police car in a park by a small tree, and then cut to the same police car right next to a lake with no tree in sight. The sheriff begins to take off his clothes, as if to wade into the lake, before he is interrupted by his deputy. The sheriff waxes eloquent over the police radio (which is actually a telephone attached to the car) about how bored he is: “I’ll tell you, if we had a big police force—and we ain’t—and some criminal type came into town today, I’d invite him to stay and commit even a small crime. It’s so goddamn dull, even my rest breaks are getting boring.”

At the 22-minute mark, the three honeymooning couples arrive on Lovers’ Island in another little motorboat. “Dwayne didn’t even bring a suitcase,” says one of the men, and Jane replies, “Of course. Who needs clothes on a honeymoon.”

After Mrs. Carlton shows the couples to their cabins, she bickers with her husband for a while before carrying two grocery bags full of trash down to the dock. Frustrated that Emily has not turned up for work, Mrs. Carlton has to make the six guests’ dinners in her small domestic kitchen, which might explain why the dinners appear to be medium-sized burritos wrapped in tin foil. Despite the appearance of the food, Sue tells her husband they are having “salad, baked potatoes, and the best looking steak. It’s the biggest piece of meat I’ve ever seen.”

Making an entirely unexpected joke, Gary replies, “Hey, I thought I was.”

As Jeff and Kay take a walk through the completely dark woods, the filmmakers cut artfully to a pair of eyes watching them from the darkness.

Back at the office/Carlton house, the Carltons continue to complain about their guests. Mrs. Carlton asks for a drink and Mr. Carlton offers her ice. “No, that’s fine,”Mrs. Carlton replies meaningfully. “Liquor’s like a man. It’s best taken straight.”

Channeling the audience’s thoughts, Mr. Carlton quips, “Well, you’ve got your sense of humor back.”

Mrs. Carlton then confesses she wants to leave the island behind. Her husband thinks she means tonight (despite the three couples staying at their resort), but she means tomorrow, as soon as the honeymooners leave (having all booked single-night honeymoons, which is apparently traditional in your universe).

In perhaps the film’s most accomplished (though dark) suspense sequence, Sue retrieves a bottle of champagne from Mrs. Carlton in the office, then walks through the dark woods back to her cabin. She is stalked by someone behind a tree who breathes loudly—could it be the killer or her new husband? In fact, it is the killer, but as he is about to confront her, her husband Gary jumps out from behind another tree to scare her.

Gary says, ironically, “Let’s go kill the bottle of champagne.”

“I’ll kill you for scaring me like that,” Sue quips.

The filmmakers continue to draw out the suspense as we watch the six oblivious young people spend time as couples, joking with each other, drinking champagne, and talking in bed.

At the 50-minute mark, the suspense snaps as we watch the killer break into Linda’s cabin (walking past her husband Dwayne, who appears to be sleeping on a blanket outside the cabin, having completed his nightly workout) and kill her in the shower with a hatchet. The filmmakers use quick cuts during the murder, coyly imitating Psycho’s shower scene, but including only four or five shots.

Meanwhile, Kay and Jeff find Kelly’s body on the beach near the dock. They pound on the Carltons’ door and tell them what they found. Instead of calling the police, Mr. Carlton and Jeff go back to the dock to investigate. Seconds later, Mr. Carlton’s voice yells, “The dock’s on fire! Get some buckets!”

Chaos ensues as the Carltons and the guests run down to the beach, where the dock and the small boats nearby are indeed on fire. They also see Joe, the handyman, standing around the beach.

“Joe wouldn’t do a thing like this,” Mrs. Carlton says. “I’ve known him for five years. He may be retarded, but—“

“Then who?” her husband asks. “One of the kids?”

 Next, Dwayne screams like an old woman as he finds Linda’s body in the shower.

Back on the mainland, in the sheriff’s office, the sheriff picks up a call from someone named Mr. Sutton. Lazily, the sheriff responds, “You say the lodge is on fire again? All right, I’ll get my men right on out there.” However, the deputy convinces him that someone has just started a bonfire on the island, so the sheriff, still smoking a cigar, takes a big bite out of a burger and ignores the call.

Mrs. Carlton discovers that their radio is broken, so they can’t call the mainland, and they are trapped on the island without a dock or a boat.

Mr. Carlton and Jeff then follow the handyman Joe to his house, where they attack him and tie his hands together. “You say he can’t speak at all?” Jeff asks.

“No, he’s a mute,” Mr. Carlton replies casually. They lock him in his house and return to the lodge, where everyone stares at each other meaningfully for several minutes until Kay blurts out, “I’m so scared!”

Mr. Carlton, Jeff, and Gary decide to leave the others in the lodge (including bodybuilder Dwayne) so they can look for the other missing people, including the maid Emily. Mr. Carlton says casually, “We’ll be back shortly.”

After a long scene in which Sue makes Folger’s coffee in a percolator in real time (echoing the famous teakettle scene in Friday the 13th), Mrs. Carlton goes outside to look for a broom, as would anyone in this situation. She is suddenly assaulted, but she manages to run screaming back to the lodge. In an amusing display of cinematic skill, Mrs. Carlton goes to the radio, saying, “Anything’s better than this dreadful silence.” As soon as she flips on the radio, the filmmakers cut to the killer looking through a window, accompanied by a well-timed musical sting that seems to come from the radio.

Suddenly, Sue is brutally murdered in the kitchen.

The men return to the lodge, only to discover Sue’s body, and then Jeff and Dwayne take a shotgun and run back outside to search for Joe, who they still assume is the murderer. They find him tied up in his house and they realize he wasn’t the killer.

The killer is revealed seconds later as he breaks through the back door to attack Mr. Carlton.

The killer ignores Mr. Carlton and goes straight for Mrs. Carlton, who realizes it is the burned and bloody Frank, her former husband who apparently died a year ago. He slams his hatchet into her head.

In a fascinating twist, Jeff shoots Frank with the shotgun before entering the lodge.

Unwisely, Mr. Carlton approaches Frank’s body when everybody else has left the room. He sobs over Mrs. Carlton’s body, oblivious that Frank is sitting up. Frank throws a knife at Mr. Carlton’s back, killing him, before Frank falls back again, dead.

The remaining eight minutes of the film consist of banter between the sheriff and the deputy. The deputy asks, “Sheriff, what do you think’s happening out there?”

The sheriff replies, “Jerry, if I knew, I wouldn’t…be wondering what’s going on.”

They drive to a dock and take a boat over to the island. Instead of stopping at a dock (which is oddly not burned), they stop the boat on the beach. They speak with Jeff and tell him to find Kay and get her to the boat while the two policeman walk to the lodge and find the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Carlton, though Frank’s body is gone.

The film cuts to a conversation between the sheriff and Marlo, the convenience store cashier. We find out over the police radio that the deputy found Joe in a cave hugging Frank’s dead body.

In a comical coda, a married couple drives up to the sheriff asking how to find Lovers’ Island. Of course, the sheriff draws his gun and fires into the air, forcing the couple to drive away as fast as they can.

Part of the charm of Honeymoon Horror is that its creators appear to believe it is the first slasher film ever made (for example, they do not believe their ambiguous prologue gives away the identity of the killer) and they rely on the audience's knowledge of slasher tropes for suspense (including the shower murder, trimmed for short attention spans, and the excellent scene where Gary scares Sue while she is stalked by the killer). This disparity makes the film enjoyable and energetic, even during sequences which some unsophisticated audience members might find "boring."

A similar disparity can be seen in the film's poster/VHS box cover.

While the art is more dramatic than most of the occurrences in the story, it is both surprisingly accurate and unsurprisingly inaccurate. The flaming killer with a hatchet is in fact a good representation of Frank, who was on fire for quite a long period of time in the story, and who uses a hatchet to murder several brides. The state of dress of the honeymoon couple is also accurate, as the film's male characters nearly always show more skin than their female counterparts (with the exception of Linda's death in the shower). The glaring inaccuracy in the poster, of course, is the presence of a heart-shaped bed headboard, which unfortunately never appears in the film.

Texas-based director Harry Preston and writer L. L. Carney made only this film, but they acquitted themselves admirably, though the film appears to have made little impact on the box office amid all the slasher films of the early 1980s. Who knows what heights their careers would have reached if they had only included a heart-shaped headboard in Honeymoon Horror?

(For detailed information about Mr. Preston's career, please see the Video Nasties Podcast episode on Honeymoon Horror and the 1996 Dallas Observer profile.)