Stand by your man
Danny and Denise are happy newlyweds, enjoying their honeymoon at their uncle’s house near the beach. After being attacked on the beach by a mysterious, rotting individual rising from the sea, Danny is pronounced dead at the hospital… only to wake up again ten minutes later.
I first saw Zombie Honeymoon at the 24th edition of the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival, back in 2006. And honestly, I really had to try hard enough to like the movie, as I felt a bit underwhelmed after watching it. I did believe I would some day rewatch this film, and now I had the opportunity to do so, as it received a recent dvd treatment on the Dutch “Mr Horror Presents” label. I still watched the same movie, though. It did not magically get a lot better. But this time there were no expectations and no feelings of disappointment. It’s safe to say I enjoyed it better now.
Zombie Honeymoon is a curiosity for mainly two reasons. First, there’s the fact that it’s a romantic zombie-movie. And it’s probably the only of its kind. And no, don’t start thinking about Shaun Of The Dead, because that’s actually “A romantic comedy. With zombies”. In fact, Zombie Honeymoon is a mixture of romance, drama, comedy and fairly nauseating horror elements. That sounds like quite an ambituous undertaking, especially for a young director having had only the experience of directing one comedy prior to this project. Secondly, there’s the curious fact that the movie’s genesis is actually more interesting than the film itself. For Zombie Honeymoon, director Dave Gebroe found inspiration in his personal life, more specifically the unfortunate, fatal surfing accident of his borther-in-law. During a period of grief, Gebroe and his sister came up with the idea of using this tragical event as the basic premise for a movie. This turned into the script for Zombie Honeymoon and the realization of the film helped both Gebroe and his sister to come to terms with their loss. But don’t get the wrong idea here, because Gebroe himself really is a lively and humorous person, as the whole theater could see and hear for themselves when he came to introduce his film at the festival. Knowing this background information sure helps to appreciate his film a bit more.
Zombie Honeymoon starts off joyful, just like any romantic comedy would. Things get a little icky when the unknown zombie character makes its first appearance, straight out of the sea, stumbling towards Danny. After spewing a foul, gooey substance into Danny’s mouth, the zombie just dies and Danny is rushed to the hospital. You might very well find yourself scratching your head at this scene, as no possible explanation is given regarding the zombie’s origin. It’s pretty much irrelevant anyway, as this film really is about Denise & Danny and how their relationship will evolve and change drastically during the next hour. So, Danny wakes up again in the hospital and all looks peachy. He didn’t seem to have suffered any damage to his brain or bodily funtcions and the happy vegetarian couple resumes their honeymoon. Only, Danny starts developing an unhealthy craving for warm, soft and juicy meat. Human meat, that is.
Now this does sound very promising, but unfortunately Zombie Honeymoon has its fair share of flaws. As I hinted at before, with mixing all the previously mentioned genres, Gebroe has bitten off maybe more than he can chew. I believe the film might have been much more effective if it had merely been a solid mixture of comedy & horror or love & terror. Whereas now, the film kind of bounces between too many different genres without ever really touching base with any of them. It’s admirable that Gebroe chose to go much deeper along other paths, but the film’s actually too offbeat for its own good and feels like it has a doubting nature. While that might work for certain other films, it occasionally misfires for Zombie Honeymoon.
Still, this film is far from a failure. It has its own peculiar charm and enough aspects of it actually do work. I remember while seeing the film a first time, I could sympathize a little with our two leading characters during the early scenes, but as the movie progressed I started to care less and less about their issues and marital problems. With this subsequent viewing, I felt less indifferent and actually did notice more details about their relationship (and how it deteriorates) that I overlooked the first time. Especially Denise (played by Tracy Coogan, the one true highlight of the cast) is the most interesting character. She gets wrapped up in a constant inner struggle, having to choose whether to stand by her flesh-devouring, loving, but very dead husband or just give up on him. Another aspect about the film that oddly enough works fine, is that the zombie-related events are banalized to some extent, making them somehow fit into an everyday relationship. It does lead to funny situations, such as Denise coming home to find Danny chewing on a jogger in their bathroom. And Danny apologizing for his actions after every time he got too hungry again. Their love story, in the end, is the strongest aspect of the film. It’s a fairly simple one (aside from the fact that Danny is a zombie), but the important thing is that it was believable. It felt real, and that’s mainly thanks to good performances by Tracy Coogan & Graham Sibley and Gebroe incorporating little things from his own experiences into the script.
Another original approach, was to have Danny gradually transform into a zombie. This way, his condition is presented like an affliction (as if it was a cancer) and his lust for human flesh much more like an addiction instead of a primal instinct. Aside from an occasional bloody mess left and right, it is only during the last 15 minutes or so, that Zombie Honeymoon ventures into real zombie horror territory, providing the film with a decent, albeit short-lived climax. But then Gebroe adds another small scene that feels like an epilogue to balance things out. With this second viewing I think I finally understood the meaning of it, but if you don’t give it some thought, that epilogue simply fails to hit the mark.
Even if Zombie Honeymoon doesn’t quite work that well as a whole, it still is a unique film and a recommended watch for all who like a refreshing indie-horror film. If or not the film will gain in cult-value, remains to be seen, but it does seem to have its share of fans already. Something I did not expect, however, is that this little film would spawn a sequel of sorts. But apparantly Zombie Honeymoon 2 is in development. Let’s see how that will work out, as I have absolutely no idea what to expect from it. A good thing is that Dave Gebroe seems at the helm again.
Running time: 80 mins
Audio: English, Dolby 5.1 & Dolby Stereo
Aspect ratio: 16/9 (1.78)
“Behind The Scenes” (8 mins)
“Deleted Scenes” (4 mins)
“Gag Reels” (5 mins)
“Auditions Tracy Coogan & Graham Sibley” (6 mins)
“Trailer” (Zombie Honeymoon)
“Trailers Mr. Horror Presents” (The Roost & Possessed)
“Behind The Scenes” is a short piece of documentary (taken from the feature-length documentary Horror Business from 2005) and shows us some footage during one whole day of shooting, including fine information and some emotional moments. “Deleted Scenes” includes two extended scenes and also director Dave Gebroe talking about the initial ending of the film, as it was first written in the script, but never actually shot. It’s probably best it didn’t make the film (as it doesn’t seem to fit in with the overall tone of the movie), but I would have loved to have seen it anyway as it sounds very over-the-top. The gag reel will surely put a smile on your face and the “Auditions” segment has Tracy and Graham acting out some lines of the script in an empty room. All worthwhile little features.