The Honeymoon Phase (2020) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Honeymoon Phase (2020) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on October 01st, 2020 | Movie Review | Sci-Fi, Psychological, Medical, Isolation

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A sci-fi thriller following a couple who pretend to be married for a research study on married couples living in isolation.

The Honeymoon Phase was directed by Phillip G. Carroll Jr. and stars Chloe Carroll, Jim Schubin, Francois Chau, Tara Westwood (from Hell Girl) and Ione Butler (from Zoombies).

Who are you married to?

The Honeymoon Phase Review

The Honeymoon Phase is an indie film, through and through: Chloe Carroll, who stars in the film and serves as a producer, is wife to director, writer, and fellow producer Phillip G. Carroll; the two earned a fellowship with Shudder Labs with their pitch for this film, and Phillip’s father John Carroll executive produced. Phillip, a newlywed himself when he wrote the script, was working out the complexities of the so-called honeymoon phase, what it means to be inside of it, and the change in dynamics when couples begin to come out of it. Drawing influences from Black Mirror, The Shining, and even a certain gruesome scene from Sleepaway Camp, Carroll delivered his debut feature film with a slow burn, rising into palpable tensity.

Struggling writer Tom and his artist girlfriend Eve are having financial trouble and come upon an ad for The Millenium Project: a study promising a $50,000 payment for 30 days in isolation together under constant surveillance of researchers. It seems too good to be true - a beautiful home, a chute that delivers the food and drink you want the second you ask for it, and a personal handler. Details of the study are shrouded in mystery, as much for the viewer as the subjects themselves, though we learn more about motivation toward the end of the film. The Director of the study (François Chau) is searching for the key to keeping a newlywed couple in the honeymoon phase, but details about how he plans to do it are scarce.

Tom and Eve’s lie to be accepted into the program is an unclear plot point, save for that they were forcing a relationship into a phase it wasn’t ready for. Tom figures the time in solitude will be great for finishing a book that he’s writing, but he’s having a case of writer’s block - something Eve is quick to point out. She’s trying to help him to the point of nagging, and he’s starting to feel emasculated. Tom has always been quirky and insecure, and he’s clearly more serious about their relationship than Eve is, but days into the experiment, Tom begins to rapidly show signs of wanting to move the relationship forward and eventually becomes aggressive about his sudden desires. Subtleties that are hidden early in the relationship are soon revealed, and the two start to learn about personality traits that are different than what they’d imagined about each other. When Eve takes a bad LSD trip and thinks she witnesses a murder, the trust between them is fractured. Is this just one long, bad trip, or is the project they’re a part of a masterclass in gaslighting?

A few scenes between the actors are slightly rocky but they descend into the madness of their respective roles well. Jim Schubin plays the perfect desperate creep, and Chloe Carroll has final girl material. The timing of the film’s release gives a certain edge to it - though it was filmed pre-pandemic, it’s a story of a partnership unraveling when forced into isolation with a microscope on the relationship, which many couples are now facing - hopefully with slightly different results than Tom and Eve.

The third act was a bit derivative of Scream, but the final scene was effectively haunting. Notably, the cinematography, direction, editing, and especially the futuristic visual effects, are of much higher caliber than one comes to expect from smaller-budget films.

Worth Watching?

Yes. Body agency, genetic mutation, the human psyche, and the role of the toxic male are all explored through scenes that range from intimate to steamy to uncomfortable to violent. I was left with questions - such as why Chloe was desperate to stay in the house after the situation became dangerous - and the beginning started slightly slow. But once you’re in it, you’re in it, in all of its comfortless glory.

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