Director Leigh Janiak debuted her first feature, the horror film Honeymoon, this week at the Tribeca Film Fest. The film stars Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones”) and Harry Treadaway (Showtime’s upcoming “Penny Dreadful”) as happy young couple, Bea and Paul. Their blissful honeymoon is interrupted when Bea is found disoriented in the woods one night, resulting in a terrifying personality change.
MediaMikes: Can you describe the idea of using something as happy as a honeymoon as your starting point?
Leigh Janiak: That’s where we came from when we started it. It was we’re going to take something really happy and seemingly beautiful and see what we need to do to it to really destroy it and watch it decay. And it was just like idea of how something so personal can become foreign and fall apart.
MediaMikes: Can you talk about your cast, because it’s mostly just the two of them throughout?
Janiak: They’re both lovely. It was the first time they’d both really done American accents to the full extent but I think that they did an amazing job, I’m completely blown away and you believe them. And you believe their love. They both have an incredible energy, they’re obviously extremely talented, but you never know chemistry-wise. We didn’t do a chemistry read before and it was kind of just like feeling their different vibes separately and it worked, thank god.
MediaMikes: Rose Leslie specifically has to undergo such a huge change in the middle of the film, did you discuss with her specifics about how her character is, I’ll say, pre- and post-op?
Janiak: We spent a lot of times with Rose just generally tracing her transformation and just understanding where she was hiding from Paul, when her character was trying to tell the truth but couldn’t do it. But it was really a scene by scene basis. And we did the same thing with Harry too by the way because Paul’s character transforms as well, just not quite so physically.
MediaMikes: Horror films tend to go either the way of the supernatural or the way of aliens, which one do you find scarier?
Harry Treadaway: I don’t know, like it depends! It’s also about almost what you don’t see, I think that’s what makes me scared. It’s sort of the emotions and stuff behind it that would actually get me scared. I think. Not aliens though, the other one!
MediaMikes: Coming up, you’ve got Penny Dreadful where you’re playing Dr. Frankenstein, what is the show bringing to this character?
Treadaway: That’s not for me to say…all that I’ll say is that it was, I mean, John Logan is you know a pretty incredible writer…Sam Mendes producing and then Juan Bayona who directed the first two is really amazing and we’ve got a cool exciting cast. And I’m just doing my little bit, really.
Here MediaMikes got into a little spoiler territory with both Leigh and Harry, so if you’d like to remain unspoiled, you can check out the trailer below, and keep an eye out for Honeymoon, which has recently been acquired by Magnet Pictures. For those of you who’d like some more gorey details head past the video.
Spoilers ahead…In the film’s climatic scene with now-transformed Bea, the long suffering Paul has to essentially birth a slimy alien entity from Bea. I asked both Janiak and Treadaway to talk about creating and performing this standout horror moment.
Treadaway: That was another night. Just another night…That was the fourth scene up that night and we were like ‘right, how are we going to do this?’ and we tried to do it the best we could. But it was uh, certainly one of the most unusual scenes I’ve probably done.
Janiak: My special effects makeup artist was this guy named Christopher Nelson and he’s been working in this business forever. He’s also incidentally the groom in Kill Bill Volume 2, super talented, he works on American Horror Story. I had put together a really extensive look book and it’s funny I actually referenced like a shower cord but I wanted biological material. And we looked at things like The Fly or Alien. We wanted that really tactile physical effect. And he created this thing and it was perfect and really disgusting and awesome. That scene took two nights to shoot so it was a very intense time.
MediaMikes: Why did you opt for the alien approach rather than supernatural for your feature?
Janiak: It was really just about making an intimate body snatcher movie. So I think that a lot of the horror is actually grounded body-horror and then there was this idea of, we wanted to give answers, the main thing for me is about this relationship falling apart but beyond that we wanted the answers of what’s actually driving these transformations. And that’s why it was the extraterrestrial thing.