The performance styles and very DIY construction of Honeycomb won’t be for everyone, but it is an incredible achievement and ode to communal indie film-making.
Synopsis: Five small-town girls abandon their mundane lives and move into an abandoned cabin. Growing increasingly isolated, their world becomes filled with imagined rituals and rules but the events of one summer night threaten to abruptly end their age of innocence forever.
Those who go into Honeycomb looking for an action-packed, film version of Yellowjackets may well be disappointed, although there are definite similarities between both works as they explore the ability for young women to enact cruelties on one another in moments of crisis. Honeycomb is more of a mood piece and has, as you may expect from a truly independent film, far fewer resources. However, there is a truly magnetic quality to it and will leave you thinking about it far beyond the time the credits roll.
The first thing to say is that the deadpan performance style employed in this film won’t be for everyone. In fact, in the first few minutes, I admit I feared the worst. Happily, as the girls head into their new commune and the film hits its stride, this becomes less of an issue and even a suitable choice as the disinterest of the teenagers plays in directly to the increasingly dangerous situation they find themselves in. At 21, director Avalon Fast is better able to capture the way her young characters speak to one another and interact, infusing everything with a droll sensibility and wry sense of humour that makes the chilling moments all the more impactful.
Fearing that they need freedom from their current lives, a group of girls abandon their responsibilities and family ties, heading off to a cabin found by Willow (Sophie Bawks-Smith). Upon arrival at the cabin, they struggle to find a balance between their yearning for independence, freedom from conformity and the seeming need for rules to maintain the easy-going lifestyle all are seeking. What starts as a group uniformity soon fractures as their imagined utopia encounters many challenges.
At only around 70 minutes long, the film’s simple idea pays off, allowing the film to spend time exploring the evolving relationships between the girls. It does, at times perhaps spend too long on party scenes, but even this works within the context of exploring the ebb and flow of the girls’ ideas about how to perfect their commune. This is certainly on the edges of horror, with genuinely uncomfortable moments, underscored by an unsettling soundtrack. Early in the film, the girls are seen in a car, the camera above their head, enveloping them in high trees. As the girls stand up the camera bounces above their heads again, a visual metaphor for their attempts to escape what they feel are restrictive lives.
A video diary is introduced during some of the film, a concept that is played with throughout. During some sequences, the boundary between the video diary and the camera that captures other events is deliberately, cleverly blurred, adding to the increasingly delirious tone. The girls switch easily from benign conversation to acts of cruelty and back again in a way that at first causes laughs, but later results in genuine chills. The concept of ‘suitable revenge’ becomes one of the group’s central rules to live by, allowing each act to be met with a proportionate act of revenge. How proportionate these acts are is quickly called into question as the tensions escalate. Many of the suitable revenge acts take place off-screen, or at least in darkness, only for their effects to become all too apparent in the bleaching sunlight of the day.
The credits shed further light on the project, featuring numerous outtakes of the cast and crew’s outtakes and time spent together on the film. The film itself is dedicated to the friends who have made everything possible, which is both a wonderful sentiment and also the kind of chemistry we have to thank for many independent projects that start as conversations between friends and blossom into full-scale productions with unique voices.
A magnetic and engaging watch that hints at a wealth of future talent, Honeycomb makes for a fascinating exploration of the desire to escape and what that escape may mean.
4 out of 5 stars
Honeycomb played as part of the Slamdance Film Festival.