Social experiment films are my cup of tea, so I was definitely interested in the idea behind Phillip G. Carroll Jr.’s The Honeymoon Phase. The film follows struggling young lovers Tom (Jim Schubin) and Eve (Chloe Carroll) as they take part in a 30-day experiment which sees them living in research facility housing. In order to become a part of this experiment, led by The Director (François Chau), Tom and Eve faked their marriage and said they’d been married for a month. The Director claims himself and the scientists at the Millennium Project are “a group of romantics” and “obsessed with love”, and that the social experiment aims to learn more about human relationships.
Throughout the course of the experiment, Tom and Eve must navigate the ‘honeymoon phase’ together for a month, without leaving the facility they’ve been placed in. They have access to a range of entertainment like films, books and vinyls, and a nice big bathtub big enough for two. As well as this, there’s a mail tube that delivers whatever they want via voice command. Chocolate cake, pancake mix, vodka, wine, all those little indulgences can be ordered 24/7. It seems idyllic, sure, but as this is a horror film, we’re expecting it to go south very quickly.
After a few blissful days of watching TV, drinking, having sex and generally enjoying each other’s company, things definitely start to get strange. Couples all have bad days and blips, but this is way more extreme than that. In fact, it’s not long before Eve starts to question everything around her. Once Eve’s paranoia sets in, this becomes an entirely different film. She starts to believe Tom can’t be trusted, as he begins to display characteristics very different from her boyfriend. Has he simply had a change of heart, or has something sinister happened to him?
The central performances in this film are just stunning. Since it focuses mainly on Tom and Eve, it was essential that our interest is kept at all times. They both do an excellent job at portraying their gradual descent into hating each other. Carroll is especially impressive as Eve, with just how quickly her demeanour changes from bubbly and fun to paranoid and genuinely fearing for her life. Her rapid deterioration is terrifying to witness, as she tries her best to understand what’s going on. Meanwhile Schubin’s performance as Tom is scary in its own right. Each change in his personality is met with apprehension, as we wonder who he really is and what he’s up to. It’s a brilliantly uncomfortable situation.
The set design is impressive too, with the modern home looking warm and inviting at first then becoming the perfect backdrop for an almost home invasion style horror. There’s nowhere to run, as it’s locked down and controlled by the facility. Out of all the films I saw at FrightFest, this was the tamest in terms of gore, but it does have some very disturbing scenes that come about as a result of Eve’s gradual breakdown. Sometimes what you don’t see is the most horrifying after all!
The Honeymoon Phase is far-fetched in places, especially when it comes to the ending, but it’s a solid sci-fi horror that really makes you think about the way we view relationships. I wasn’t too bothered by some of the ‘sillier’ elements, as sometimes its necessary to suspend your disbelief. It does, however, open up an interesting conversation about that elusive ‘honeymoon phase’ and the period that follows it. Overall this film impressed me and it’s worth a watch, as it really sucks you into its compelling experiment and what happens afterwards.