Honeymoon Horror: Director’s Cut Bootleg 1982
Directed by: Harry Preston
Starring: Bob Wagner,Paul Iwanski, Cheryl Black
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This peak period slasher movie is one of those that rarely gets a mention, which is quite strange as it has a lot going for it. Even if a honeymoon can hardly be considered a calendar holiday, it does boast a recognised setting that slots in nicely with the likes of Halloween, Friday the 13th, Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me et al. The killer has the whole burned to a crisp/Cropsy style thing going on and if you squint your eyes a bit, then the location could even be considered a summer camp! What more do you need I ask you? I hadn’t watched this one for literally donkey’s years, but when I got my hands on the ‘director’s cut’ I just had to give it a whirl. It was shot in 1981 and financed by a group of Texan business men. Most of it was directed by a Garland based screen and theatre writer named Harry Preston, but when the producers ran out of money, Preston was shut out of the post production.
The remaining decision makers became anxious at the film’s grim tone and ordered editor Malcolm Wittman to re-cut it with additional footage. Scared that they would be left with a feature that they wouldn’t find distribution for, they sold it to Sony for $50,000. This was pretty much the same amount that they had spent on its development. It was a fantastic bit of business for the media giant however as it went on to make over 20 million dollars in VHS sales. It still to this day has not been picked up for DVD release and this is because (a) the rights for the picture are owned by Sony and they do not sub-licence any of their back-catalogue and (b) the print is in extremely bad shape and will probably never see light of day again. If you have a copy on VHS, then keep hold of it as it may be worth something in years to come. The rare director’s cut version that I watched this time around, was a rough quality bootleg and is quite different from the other one that I have on the Sony label. I know that I am quite a generous critic, but I actually think that it plays much better and has a completely different tone due to it being what was initially intended.
We open on a secluded Island, a man catches his Mrs in bed with another guy and in the ensuing scuffle the house catches fire. The adulterous woman manages to hot foot it out of the front door with her lover, but they leave her unconscious hubby in the midst of the flames stating, “Let him burn”… One year later and and the widow is now remarried to her partner in crime, Vic. They have reluctantly decided to return to the fully repaired site in order to get it up and running and then sell it on. They are joined by three newly-wed couples who are renting cabins from them to celebrate their honeymoons. But guess who’s back in the motherfucking house? Yep, you guessed it, before long a flame-grilled hand is seen pulling back the branches to get a better look as only backwoods psychos do. They soon discover that they are trapped until morning and fighting to survive against the charred assailant with a machete.
First things first, this director’s cut excludes the tagged-on comedic scenes of the cholesterol-ly challenged Sheriff and instead opts for an altogether darker feel. Whereas the other print often cuts away from the horror to show the goofy antics of lard ass and his deputy (stuff like him eating a burger with a cigar in his mouth and acting like a general doofus), this one plays it straight and has a far more effective feeling of dread because of that. I didn’t note any suspense on the review that I wrote of this in 2001, but there was most definitely the odd smidgen here. Although most of the stalking shots were directly lifted from Friday the 13th parts 1 and 2, Preston does chuck in the odd good idea. I especially liked the killer’s revelation scene where he bursts through the door and closes in on his prey. The way the director sets up the dynamics of the shot and the distance, which makes the cowering victim seem so small in comparison; is no less than brilliant.
When the remaining characters realise that they are being stalked by a maniac, they do the right thing and attempt to stick together. The script does well to create a false sense of security, because they mistake the identity of the madman and believe that they have stopped him early on. I was sure that I’d picked our final girl when one of the bunnies started talking of her uneasy feelings and wanting to get off the island. Instead, she got quite gorily slaughtered, which was unusual and authentic. None of the cast ever really did anything else worth noting after this and for first timers, they did ok with what they were given. Bad acting is par for the course in a slasher, so it came as no surprise that it was all very amateur here. What I appreciated was the fact that they were genuinely likeable and showed concern for their buddies when the trouble started. They don’t really do enough for you to want any of them not to get splattered, but at least they’re not conceited ignoramuses of the type we see so regularly in new age slasher flicks. The feature is still weakened by a bloated mid-section and incredibly bizarre dialogue, which switches from comedic to bewildering many times throughout.
There are far too many pointless scenes that could have been either cut down or completely removed to have given the film a slicker runtime. It’s also very poorly lighted and whenever the action heads outside, it’s tough to see what’s going on. It is somewhat frustrating that the killer seems to take forever to get his butt in gear and when he does, the murders are edited so choppily that they’re tough to make out. There is some goo, but it’s not really shown for enough time to be appreciated and therefore seems pretty pointless. It’s also hilariously non-politically correct with lines such as, “Joe’s a little bit retarded and can’t speak, but if you need anything, just ask him and he’ll get it for you.” Retarded? Nice.
Honeymoon Horror is a poorly put together movie, but looks much better here than in the most common print available. Preston has said that the production was so awkward that most of his ideas were devoured by the lack of budget and the film does look shoddy and cheap. For a slice of regional filmmaking with a cool maniac though, it at least deserves to be seen. One thing that I forgot to mention. What a crap place to have a honeymoon 😉
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl: √