Producers: Alan Pierson and Dan Kennedy Director: Devereux Milburn Screenplay: Devereux Milburn Cast: Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D’Ambrose, Jamie Bradley, Lisa Dunham and Joshua Patrick Dudley Distributor: Dark Star Films
The makers of “Honeydew”—first-time writer-director-editor Devereux Milburn, producer-cinematographer Dan Kennedy, production designer Kendra Eaves, composer John Mehrmann—have all bent over backward to give it an arty, hallucinatory vibe, and the cast give their all to the approach. The result is visually weird and sonically strange, and for some viewers that may be enough.
But beneath all the pizzazz the movie is nothing more than another retelling of the chestnut about the hapless travelers who fall into the clutches of a family of backwoods oddballs with malevolent purposes in mind.
In this case the victims are Sam (Sawyer Spielberg, Steven’s son) and Rylie (Malin Barr). He’s an actor trying to memorize scripts (or, as he honestly says at one point, a waiter-actor) who’s accompanying his girlfriend, a botanist, to an area where she can investigate a fungus that has been affecting crops, livestock and people. After their car breaks down they decide to camp in a field, only to be accosted by a farmer named Eulis (Stephen D’Ambrose) who orders them off his land. But their car won’t start.
So they trudge to a nearby house, where they’re invited in by Karen (Barbara Kingsley), a strange old woman who calls a neighbor to come over and fix the car. He never shows up, of course, so she feeds them a peculiar meal that Rylie avoids but Sam wolfs down and then gives them a place to bed down in her basement. The only other person in the place is Gunni (Jamie Bradley), whom Karen introduces as her son. He’s a chubby, almost comatose guy sitting at the kitchen table, a bandage around his head, and has occasional seizures. Karen explains that he’s recovering from being kicked in the head by a bull.
Even the most obtuse viewers will realize Sam and Rylie have made a mistake accepting Karen’s invitation, and their misgivings prove prescient (of course, they’ve seen the gloomy funeral that serve as prologue, but even without it Karen would set off red flags).
It wouldn’t be fair to reveal what happens in the last act, but it will come as no surprise that Karen has other things in mind for Sam and Rylie than feeding them a home-cooked meal and sending them on their merry way. Lisa Dunham turns up near the close as a woman who’s been her guest earlier.
What stands out in the movie are the technical contributions by Eaves, Kennedy and Mehrmann, as well as Milburn (especially in his editorial capacity), and the performance by Kingsley, who may be chewing the scenery in her abrupt switches from smiling welcome to menacing stares and apparent wide-eyed incomprehension, but at least adds a humorously malevolent tone to what is basically a very familiar story. By comparison Spielberg and Barr go through the conventions reasonably well, but are nothing special.
“Honeydew” strains to feel different, but at heart is just more of the same.