Honeymoon Horror (1982) Starring Paul Iwanski, Bob Wagner and Cheryl Black. Directed by Harry Preston.On a secluded couples resort island off the coast of Florida, a series of gruesome murders tied to the resort owner’s dark past terrify the newlywed guests.
We open with a married couple, Frank and Elaine, about to temporarily part ways. They’re on an island in the dark of night when Frank announces that he has to head back to the mainland. Elaine expresses concern about being left all alone in her cabin, until Frank reminds her that his best friend Vic is right next door. Turns out Elaine finds Vic rather creepy and says so. Down at the dock, Frank climbs into a motorboat and just sits there, staring off into space as dark waves lap at the boat.
Is he contemplating the life journey that led him to this tiny boat, or is he thinking about how girls saying a guy is creepy sometimes means they want to shag him? It’s unclear.
Meanwhile, Elaine is safely in the arms of her secret lover, Vic. That sassy little vixen doesn’t find him creepy at all! But we do, because he’s grinning silently down at her with a late 1970’s porn ‘stache.
Don’t worry, no need to put the kids to bed. These two red-hot lovebirds never get any racier than holding each other while standing there, grinning and staring like two figure skaters about to start a routine.
Suddenly, Frank bursts in angrily and engages in a completely hilarious brawl with Vic. Mr. Creepy immediately emerges victorious as he throws Frank across the room. While he’s down, Elaine unceremoniously dumps a lit oil lamp on her unconscious husband. The carpet around Frank’s head becomes a raging bonfire.
“Elaine, I think you killed him”.
“So what? Let’s get outta here.”
It’s an odd strategy for murder, because the whole place is made of wood. When I say that, I don’t mean that there’s some light oak paneling along the walls. I’m talking floor to ceiling timber ready to burst into flame.
Seriously, everything is made of wood. Even the curtains.
When I direct my reboot of “Honeymoon Horror,” I’m going to have Vic look skeptically down at the burning Frank and say:
“Hey, Elaine…do ya think we’re gonna have trouble with Frank again in about a year?”
As murderer origin stories go, the first victim is any sense of mystery. We know that the guy who has the terrible accident or cause for psychosis at the beginning of a slasher film is gonna show up to cause trouble later on.
Imagine if Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho” had opened with Norman Bates in full Mother drag cleaning blood off the guest bathroom floor to prepare the room for the next victim.
From the outset, we would know exactly what Marion Crane and others were walking into and the shocking revelations, later on, would have no punch. That’s why Wes Craven chose not to begin 1996’s “Scream” with Billy Loomis and Stu Macher sharpening hunting knives in Stu’s garage and going:
“I was thinking maybe we could kill Drew Barrymore later. If you want.”
One year later, we meet a portly sheriff who is named Sheriff. Don’t believe me? Check the credits. He hangs out at the local five and dime and smokes stogies. He’s got huge grey sideburns, unfashionable glasses and his uniform shirt is casually unbuttoned a few too many. While he’s standing around, a store clerk literally tells him the entire story of the movie so far. She looks like her jaw hurts from all that exposition.
We learn that Elaine has remarried and that she and Vic are rebuilding the mysteriously burned down cabins out on Lover’s Island in hopes of hosting newlyweds on their honeymoons. The sheriff has some misgivings about the island because Elaine hired a handyman named Crazy Joe, who is well-known in these parts for his apparent lack of sanity. Sheriff’s suspicions are underlined in a scene where he stands on the shore in his sweaty uniform, staring out at Lover’s Island while banjo music plays. If we’re supposed to believe Sheriff is brooding, the cheerfully twangy soundtrack destroys the mood. Also, he’s barefoot and his belt is undone, shirt hanging open.
The first boatload of newlyweds arrives on the island. We meet Kay, Jeff, Linda, Dwayne, Sue and Gary. Elaine and Vic greets them, and we learn that a maid named Emily is already missing and Crazy Joe is the butler who fulfills the guest’s needs.
“Joe’s our caretaker. He’s a little retarded and he can’t speak. But if you need anything, ask him and he’ll get it for you.” Elaine rather callously tells the clients.
She also tells them that her former husband Frank tragically burned in a terrible fire while she was away on the mainland. Liar, liar, pants on…well, you know. Elaine takes a shortcut through the woods between rows of cabins and is stalked by a hideously burned figure wearing a shining wedding band.
Things aren’t going very well between Vic and Elaine. After she snaps at him for accidentally bumping into her, he replies: “You are SUCH a bitch, Elaine.”
I feel like if the first thing you did as a couple was burn her previous husband to death, happiness isn’t in your future. If I were Vic, I’d be investing in fireproof clothing. You never know with that Elaine.
Speaking of couples, what luxurious pleasures await the clientele of Lover’s Island in their suites? Heart-shaped hot tubs for two? Vibrating beds with passionate red silk sheets? Mirrored ceilings? That’s a negative on all three. The rooms look like your average EconoLodge. But what about special amenities, like couples only massages, saunas? You’re outta luck. Okay, fine. No amenities. Surely there’s planned romantic activities like candlelit dinners on the beach, boating or horseback riding? Sorry, no. What about alcohol like wine and champagne, the typical libations of romance? You have to bring your own.
At the Sheriff’s station, Sheriff gets a call about the missing Emily. He doesn’t seem too concerned. Meanwhile, we catch a glimpse of Frank’s burned face as he sneaks past Kay and Jeff in the forest and tries unsuccessfully to enter Elaine’s cabin. Vic learns that Frank was an abusive husband and he and Elaine begin to reconcile over whiskey. During sex, Elaine confesses that she wants to sell the resort and run far away.
You know what would really make this a party? A series of poorly lit, unconvincing murders.
Ask and ye shall receive! Honeymoon Horror’s first stab at actually being a slasher flick comes when Frank kills Linda as she’s showering.
Well, maybe KILLS is the wrong word. He slowly holds up a hatchet to her shoulder and it leaves behind a red line which obviously came from syrup slathered on the weapon’s edge. Then Linda remembers she’s supposed to be dead and falls over as if she were a robot being deactivated.
That’s exactly what happens when someone strikes you in the shoulder with a bladed instrument, by the way. You instantly turn off.
After the murder, Frank sets the island’s dock and boats on fire. During the blaze, we finally meet Crazy Joe. He’s an old, grizzled fella wearing what looks like a train conductor’s cap. He gazes at the massive inferno and then runs fearfully in the other direction. Doesn’t seem that crazy to me. THIS is the guy Sheriff was so worried about?
Speaking of, Sheriff gets the call and sends his best men to the island.
When Elaine points out that Crazy Joe couldn’t have smashed the radio, torched the boats and killed two people, Vic responds to his murderous wife dryly:
“Anyone is capable of murder, given the circumstances.”
DAMN! Looks like the boats aren’t the only thing that just got burned.
Frank slaughters Sue while she’s brewing coffee in the kitchen. This time, the hatchet barely grazes her and she dies instantly. Maybe I’m reading into this the wrong way. Was there a scene where they explained that the hatchet is supposed to be magic? It seems to kill people who even just look at it.
You know how the rest of this unfolds. The men on the island fan out looking for missing persons and find more victims that were killed offscreen, there’s a number of empty jumpscares and Frank gets his big reveal moment where he confronts Elaine. Before that, we suffer through endless POV shots of Frank running through the forest, listening to his tortured breathing as he stares at nothing. He’s not even stalking anyone. He’s just checking out trees.
I wouldn’t call Honeymoon Horror a high energy film, but it does come to life in the final 10 minutes. The preceding 80 minutes are a chore to sit through, but it has the funniest final kill I’ve seen in years.
In the end, this one is only recommended for patient completists like me, who must see every 1980’s slasher ever made. Either Honeymoon was severely butchered by censors or just made with complete incompetence. The lighting is horrendous. The comedy banjo music is a jarring contrast to the grim and serious tone. It feels like whole chunks of it are missing, like 80 % of the murders. And what’s left tries the patience. We never learn why Crazy Joe was so feared, and all that time spent with the Sheriff goes nowhere. He literally has nothing to do with anything. They even cut back to the clerk from the beginning, who begins to summarize the events we’ve just seen. It’s painful.