Director: Phillip G. Carroll Jr
Starring: Chloe Carrol, Jim Schubin, Francois Chau, Tara Westwood
Run Time: 89 mins
“How much do you truly know your partner?” that seems to be one of the central questions asked by Phillip G. Carroll Jr’s intriguing if patchy sci-fi horror debut. Another question is “Why can’t the Honeymoon Phase last indefinitely?.”
That is certainly the purported aim of an experiment being carried out on various married couples by a character known as “The Director” (Francois Chau). One of those couples is Tom (Jim Schubin) and Eve (Chloe Carroll) who are not married but pretend to be to get the $50,000 on offer for participating. The experiment seeing them hold up in an all mod-cons apartment where they are provided with any food & drink luxury their heart desire via futuristic chute thing. All while being observed by various cameras and a hologram mediator who asks them daily questions and is maybe a little too-friendly.
Predictably Tom and Eve initially revel in this environment. But, this being a horror movie and all, cracks begins to appear in their relationship as Tom seems to become more brutish and Eve suspects there is something more sinister going with the experiment. There is a suggestion both things are in Eve’s mind as she unravels, but this is never made very convincing, particularly as the story is told in flashback with Tom narrating.
To say anymore about the plot would be to spoil the film so we shall leave it there. There are several narrative twists and turns sprinkled throughout, some of which are more convincing than others. Talking of convincing one of the soundest elements is the powerful performance of Chloe Carroll, who totally convinces as a woman on the edge who finds it difficult to trust her own instincts. Mainly because it seems every other character featured seems to be gaslighting her in some way or other. None more so than Tom himself.
The film is at its strongest when Eve and Tom’s relationship begins to disintegrate. Carroll Jr ratcheting up the tension as the pair enter a psychological game of cat and mouse. Although this tension is sometimes undercut by overly melodramatic music cues which heavily signpost what the audience is supposed to be feeling in that moment.
Carroll Jr also through the first couple of acts keeps the narrative intrigue high as to what is going on both with Tom and the experiment. Even if the plot unfolds somewhat predictably. The script is also initially solid. There are a number of decent ideas here, and it delves into a number of deep questions as mentioned above.
However, it is when the film hurtles toward its conclusion that the movie gets considerably weaker. As the big third-act narrative reveal seems both hokey and contrived. Not only has that it negated some of the power of what the story was about until that point. Plus, there is a final twist, which is entirely predictable to anyone paying attention.
Inevitably, given the near-future tech-paranoia element of the plot, the film has been frequently described as an over-extended episode of “Black Mirror.” Which in the end is a somewhat harsh but a not entirely inaccurate summation.
Overall: “The Honeymoon Phase” is a promising debut that starts strongly and has some good ideas as well as a great central performance from Chloe Carroll. But ultimately runs out of narrative steam as well as being let down by some predictable plot elements.
You can watch "The Honeymoon Phase" here