DreadWorld Review : Honeyspider (2015)

"Retro"..."Throwback"..."Old School"...whatever you want to call it, there is a movement that permeates the culture of modern film makers. Whether it be direct re-makes or more, as they say, "homages," the horror film genre has been more affected by this trend than any other. Let's face it, a romantic comedy is a romantic comedy - no matter what the decade. But the same cannot be said for our beloved horror genre. The styles evolve, the feel of the films evolve, the subtleties of the genre evolve, yet even as the films propel forward, those of us that love the genre consistently looks to its past to propel it into the future. Honeyspider, the brainchild of director Josh Hasty and writer Kenny Caperton plants it's flag as deep into the late 70's/early 80's retro game as is humanly possible - both to it's benefit and detriment.

Welcome to Halloween 1989, Jackie Blue is set not only to celebrate Halloween, but also her birthday. However, she's not much in the mood for festivities, as it seems her entire family support system is collapsing around her. Add in the pressures of being a college student and the last things on Jackies mind are thoughts are of turning 21 or the ghoulish delights October 31st can bring. When she starts to become haunted by a mysterious symbol, an even more mysterious professor, and a myriad of large hairy spiders, it becomes clear to Jackie that this Halloween is going to be far more sinister than the average holiday.

Director Hasty and writer Caperton clearly love the first Halloween film, as evidenced by the long tracking shots of Jackie walking through her town from school a la Laurie Strode in the first Carpenter classic. It's also pretty obvious that Hasty and Caperton are big fans of the later editions of the franchise as well. We get a rather Thorn-esque style cult, come creepy rubber masks, and some top rate butcher knife kills. The only thing missing was a poorly cast Paul (Stephen) Rudd trying to hold everything together. But where as an homage to the original Halloween (or even Halloween I and II) could succeed, when the film shifts from the sparse almost muted tones of Carpenter to the over the top feel of the Thorn-like cult it loses a lot of it's momentum.

Therein lies the biggest problem with Honeyspider. It's tone is just all over the place. The first twenty minutes or so of the film is classic Carpenter - haunting and beautiful. It tries to take a turn towards more of  a late-80's slasher, but layers the soundtrack with songs like "Monster Mash." Now, I like "Monster Mash" as much as the next horror fan, but there is a time and a place for "Monster Mash" and that time and place is not when building tension during the stalk and slash part of the film. The film ends in a black and white dream scape, not unlike what Rob Zombie did with some of the scenes in his version of Halloween II. Like that film or not, at least it had Sheri Moon Zombie on a horse and not a finger beckoning the protagonist to a basement for some unknown reason. It felt more like a bad film school project than a fitting conclusion to a solid little horror film.

Now, it may sound like Honeyspider is a total piece of crap, but that is certainly not true. Hasty shows one of the best eyes and most patience I've seen in a new director since Ti Wests first film. Too often, in this post Saw world, new directors come out of the box looking for the knock out punch in the first reel. Hasty shows the remarkable ability to build tension in a scene though a simple, slow camera movement.

For his part, Caperton writes clear, concise, scenes that have a definitive purpose.The dialogue almost never feels forced or awkward. In fact one could argue that there is far too little of it because it's one of the films strengths. The biggest issue with the script and with the film as a whole is that it just feels like too much. There are seeds of some tremendous ideas here. It almost feels like each act could be it's own separate entry into a pretty damn good trilogy. Episode one is the stalk and slash film, ending in the cult abducting Jackie. Episode Two is the cult film. It could have a Wicker Man feel to it, but instead of it ending with Jackie's death, it ends with her assimilation into the cult. The third film could center around the cult attempting to fulfill some apocalyptic vision. I'm just speculating at this point, but that's almost what Honeyspider feels like - three distinct visions melded together as one narrative.

Honeyspider is a bit of a mishmash, but it's ultimately a victim of it's own ambition. It's a shame that the film never comes together as a whole. There is a decent amount to like about the film and the passion of it's makers certainly bleeds through the entire project. Let's hope this is just the first step in Hasty and Capertons long film making journey. Honeyspider is coming off a successful festival run and is currently looking for distribution. We will keep you posted as to when and where you can see it in the future.

** and 1/2 stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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