Written by Jeff Kopas, Doug Taylor
Directed by Jeff Kopas
In Jeff Kopas’ Blood Honey, we never spike the sugary endorphin boost one would experience from an indulgent dessert overload. There’s a very “The bees are family!” undertone because, yes, this is a horror/thriller about beekeeping family traditions. Suicides, estranged daughters, poison nectar – you’ve never seen a…wait for it…HIVE MIND like this. *Swigs bottle of Jack Daniels Honey* What, I’ve gotta find some kind of entertainment in this flick because it certainly wasn’t on screen.
Shenae Grimes-Beech stars as Jenibel Heath (yes, Jenibel), daughter heiress to a hunting lodge business that could be described as “cultlike.” Father Marvin (Gil Bellows) is on his deathbed, brother Neil (Kenneth Mitchell) handles daily management, sister Linda (Krystal Hope Nausbaum) keeps their pooch company – Jenibel’s return home is to a working ecosystem. Little does she know that Marvin wants her to sell “The Hive” once he passes. Jenibel has no problem conceptualizing his request since the childhood property holds suppressed memories of her mother’s suicide, but Neil has other plans. So do The Hive’s communal congregation (doctors and pilots who benefit from the Heath’s business). Sorry, Jenibel (still definitely not a typo).
You see, Jenibel is quite the busy bee in Blood Honey. She’s disallowed closure by Marvin, bruised during moonlight nature walks when visions appear, oppressed by yokel townsfolk – at any time, multiple conflicts pull Kopas’ lead in numerous directions. It’s all about psychological manifestations and torturous grief, but that doesn’t explain the mob-mentality acted on by supposedly rational humans. Pieces rarely fit into place as the script jumps between choppy tension, especially once the Shyamalan-lite final twist whirls into being – and that’s just the beginning.
I do appreciate what Kopas is going for. Somewhere between Neil LaBute’s crazed The Wicker Man remake – re: Neil’s Oliver Twist outburst – and something The Omen-ish (Mrs. Heath’s watertower jump). It’s just that outlandish notes of genre pushing fall unfavorably flat between dramatics either too dark to witness (sight wise) or without terror. Family relationships aren’t believable enough to prevent Jenibel from selling out and shipping off, nor are workman attempts to keep The Hive serving whisky and honey every night especially enthusiastic (or whatever their “house cocktail” is). Slow like the dripping of syrup, yet nowhere near as saccharine.
Let’s jump back to the film’s ending, because this is where everything unravels. Well, maybe it’s Marvin’s death – not especially camera-friendly and animation heavy – that marks Blood Honey’s slow spiral out of control, but in any case, Jenibel’s finale does no favors.
Previous to conclusions, things happen very specifically to Jenibel and Linda *separately.* At one point Linda grabs a gun and disappears, alone. Yet come the film’s end – alright, we’re entering spoiler territory until the next paragraph – it turns out that Linda died due to an allergic bee sting reaction while playing with Jenibel too close to their chain-link keeping area (metal wires with massive openings, a bee’s worst nightmare). So Jenibel is imagining Linda the whole time and people just *played along,* or – in the gun’s case – Jenibel imagined herself as Linda? It’s a bizarre discovery and unfulfilling end (despite wacky flashback scenes with Grimes-Beech talking to empty chairs).
Family is messy, deeds suck and baggage is heavy. I get it. Films have dealt with this kind of tonal heaviness before and will continue to for years to come. It’s just – Blood Honey is not one of the more intriguing vices for horror fans. From in-your-face-foreshadowing (Marvin’s showcasing of the Ruby Red *poisoned* batch of honey he kept) to a deadness around the fly-in background setting, you’ll reach for meaning only to be met with predictable outcomes. Psychological aspects are more head-scratchy than mindblowing – hard to appreciate with energies so low.
Cinematography, performances, plotting – Blood Honey is a heritage thriller that wrestles with personal intent. Either played too straight or glazed-hammy for its own good, never reigning in elements that buzz around with their own separate agendas. Sexy, sticky bodies doused in you-know-what bring the weirdness (that’s not where honey goes), just not often enough. Otherwise it’s one trip home that does little to comment on torturous themes. A tantalizing DVD cover that otherwise leads to an empty nest.
Blood Honey will leave you with a craving for something sweet when it never delivers on its decadently gruesome promise.
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