This is one of those horror films that does a lot right – here it’s a superb slow set-up, with a mature and realistic depiction of a relationship between newly weds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) who are on their honeymoon in an old house in the woods. It’s clear they know each other intimately, and want to please each other. If one is upset the other immediately realises and will try to fix things.This means for a good part of the introduction this doesn’t feel like a horror film. It’s more like a relationship drama – and so all the better to shock you by suddenly introducing something horrifying.
One night Bea disappears into the woods, and Paul finds her cold and naked – without the night shirt she had on earlier – and with strange marks on her legs. From this moment on her behaviour seems different. She insists it’s just because she’s still a bit confused since the ‘sleep walking’ incident. But Paul starts to become more and more sure that something is wrong with Bea and that as strange as it may sound, that actually maybe Bea, is no longer Bea…
The closeness between Bea and Paul that I mentioned earlier is important, not just for the new marriage but also because it’s used to make it clear to the viewer that Bea is behaving oddly. At first Paul only picks up on subtle things that seem different. For example, when Bea would have laughed or cried previously – she no longer does. She also inexplicably uses the wrong terms for things or objects.
Predictably though, after such a good start, the horror aspect of the film when it does arrive – isn’t horrific enough. Usually in a horror film when you see the ‘creature’, the film becomes less frightening. However that’s because it’s usually already been presented in an immature and shallow way. There will often be a bunch of teens who you don’t care about and who you know are going to get killed. Here however, after a more realistic set-up, the film could have done with an actual genuinely scary creature or creatures to shock you – but sadly no visible creatures ever arrive. There’s a bit of body-shock horror, some implied ‘creatures’ and some nicely twisted manipulative logic used by these ‘creatures’. You’ll know what I mean when you see the wife of Bea’s friend Will, telling Paul that “Will is hiding”, and when you realise what this means at the end of the film.
For the most part this is a good film, it’s often compulsive viewing and the acting is of a high standard. It perhaps could have played on ambiguity a bit more – maybe have made the viewer worry more that Paul is losing it instead of Bea, but mostly it’s well done. Ultimately though it’s a disappointing movie because it’s a mature treatment of the genre and it could have been something special but instead it just ends up touting the same half-scary low-budget bullsh*t you see in every other ‘mature’ horror film at the moment. 6/10