"Deliciously Eccentric, Marvellously Messed Up Stuff"
After premiering at last year's Frightfest, where it was quite justifiably some people's film of the festival, writer and director (and editor) Devereux Milburn's debut feature is getting a UK digital release from Signature Films.
Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) and partner Rylie (Malin Barr) are on a research trip out in the middle of nowhere for Rylie's planned doctorate in botany. The subject of the research is a fungus called Sordico that behaves in much the same way ergot does, namely causing peripheral gangrene and insanity, but with a host of other gruesome mutative effects as well.
They camp without permission and are thrown off the land. But then their car won't start so they beg for shelter at the house of Karen (Barbara Kingsley) and her obese, slow-moving face-bandaged 'son' Gunni (Jamie Bradley) who spends most of his time staring at old Popeye cartoons on a black and white TV while sucking lemons dipped in salt.
To the surprise of no-one but our leads, there's something very strange and very unpleasant going on at Karen's house and soon Sam and Rylie are part of the grim insanity, but exactly what that is I'll leave you to find out.
Stylishly directed and walking a fine line between comedy and really nasty horror in a way the League of Gentlemen did so effortlessly, HONEYDEW also boasts a strong David Lynch vibe in its lead mad old lady, its awkward dinner table scenes and a very odd dream sequence. Add in a quite terrific soundtrack that sounds like Spike Milligan trying to score THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS using only his own body as all the instruments and you have a film where you never quite know if what you're seeing is intended to make you laugh or recoil in horror. Fans of literary horror of a certain age may be delighted to learn that as HONEYDEW's horror escalates it becomes reminiscent of the best / worst moments of the Pan Book of Horror Stories.
HONEYDEW is quite splendid - the performances, direction and music are all spot on and for a first effort it's quite something. One hopes Devereux Milburn's body of work continues to develop along such witty, horrific and occasionally frankly disgusting lines. An early entry for my Top 10 of 2021.
Devereux Milburn's HONEYDEW is out on digital platforms from Signature Entertainment on Monday 29th March 2021