Devereux Milburn Talks HONEYDEW and That Insane Cameo in Our Exclusive Interview

Devereux Milburn already sounds like the name of a director you would probably follow. But, it turns out, Honeydew is actually Milburn’s first feature horror film. Somewhere in between Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth, Honeydew isn’t afraid of taking backwoods horror to a different place entirely. Taking a couple vacationing out in the country, Milburn introduces them (and us) to a bizarre, food-obsessed family deliciously unaware that the earth around them is quite literally driving them insane.

Related: Nightstream: HONEYDEW Review – Rural Horror Gives New Meaning To The Term Food Coma

In the below interview, Milburn talks about the inevitable comparisons to TCM. Plus, working with a Spielberg and how one of the craziest cameos in recent horror history came to be. He also has a great answer for what food and cocktail pairing you should have when you check out Honeydew for the first time!

Honeydew follows a couple forced to seek shelter in the home of an aging farmer and her peculiar son. Then they suddenly begin having strange cravings and hallucinations taking them down a rabbit hole of the bizarre. 

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Dread Central: When I first saw the film out of Nightstream, I ended up reviewing it. And, obviously, gave it a positive review.

Devereux Milburn: Yeah, yeah! We remember that.

DC: Oh awesome. I’ve seen it now a couple of times but I felt like I’d already heard your name. It just has that ring to it. So I was surprised when I found out that this was your first full horror feature. With a name like yours, it seems inevitable that you would become an artist. Did you feel any pressure because of your name? It’s a fantastic name for a film director.

DM: (laughs) Well, it’s a family name. It’s my uncle’s name, my grandfather’s name, my great grandfather’s name. So I’ve gotten used to it over the years as just being my name. I always wanted to have a name like Mike or John or Jack. I’ve sort of embraced it more over the last decade. Both of my parents are artists…are writers and poets. There was never a pressure by any means but…I grew up around artists all my life. On some level, it might have been inevitable that I do something in the arts.

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DC: Talking about the film, it seems like you’re combining two ideas into one. You’ve also got food obsession and addiction with a crazed family. Was this originally going to be two separate movie ideas that got combined into one?

DM: Sort of, yeah. I had been writing a feature script, this was in 2017 when we first started talking about it. I was writing a feature adaptation of a George Saunders short story at the time called The 400 Pound CEO. It deals a lot with body image and food and weight monitoring. So I sort of had that in the back of my head already when Dan [Kennedy] texted me and said do you want to make a horror feature? The beginnings of his outline were about a couple on a camping trip. And it started out as a bit more of a creature film. It was about them being tormented by this mythical woman of the woods. And sort of quickly became something pretty far from that. But yeah, I think it started out maybe a bit tropier. A bit more true to the backwoods horror format.

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And I was sent an article about this mass poisoning that happened in the 1950s in this little French town called Pont-Saint-Esprit. A large portion of the citizens of the town became infected by ergot fungus. That’s commonly found on rye and had infected all of the rye in the town. The local bakery was distributing all this bread that was essentially fungal bread and it was causing people to develop gangrene, have hallucinations and have to be committed to asylums. I was just really struck by how effective it was at freaking me out. I just really saw a lot of potential in that as a through line for the film and as a way to connect them to the landscape and the audience to Karen (Kingsley) – to someone who lives on the land and who’s been consuming what turned out to be a fictional version of ergot.

DC: There is something scary about consuming something and going crazy but not knowing something is happening to you. I didn’t personally think of Texas Chain Saw Massacre when watching Honeydew. But they both show evil that lurks out in the country is worse than any crime in any big city. I think you are kind of carrying on that tradition.

DM: Obviously there’s been a lot of lines drawn between Honeydew and TCM and it was more subconscious for me. Any callbacks or reference to Texas Chain Saw, I think, were probably inherent in some ways but not deliberate. I’m obviously a huge fan of Tobe Hooper and of that film and I think I started in that mindset and then, for lack of a better term, went a little crazy from there after that first beat or that first act.

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There’s a lot more prolonged, veiled sanity in Honeydew than there is in Texas Chain Saw and I think that there’s definitely a control for a bit longer and definitely a slower burn. When you set a film in a rural area there’s that element of lawlessness that’s always acceptable because you’re not held accountable…so it does make it this sort of vacant, atmospheric quality that does contribute to the narrative in a big way.

DC: The community guidelines out in the country are a little more relaxed I guess. If we could talk about the cast for a minute. I know with Sawyer Spielberg, I’m not personally that interested that he has a legendary director for a Dad. But I am curious if he imparted any moviemaking wisdom to you that he may have gleaned from his Dad. And if you feel his involvement helped put more of a spotlight on the film?

DM: Yeah, it definitely put, inevitably, a spotlight on the film and if people see that name written in black and white or they hear it, there’s probably a likelihood that they’re going to at least watch the trailer or investigate it a bit more if not actually go and watch the film. Though that was not the intention from the outset, we had a few people we were looking at that we really liked for Sam. Then Sawyer came in and read with Mal [Malin Barr] and there was an instant chemistry and an instant intuitive comic sensibility that he had that he was able to work the nuances of that really effectively without it being too ridiculous or have it ruin the horror element of the tone of the film.

Also Read: Nightstream: HONEYDEW Review – Rural Horror Gives New Meaning To The Term Food Coma

In terms of any wisdom, I don’t know if there was any concrete wisdom but, certainly, working with someone who’s had experience on very large productions and being surrounded by that scale for so much of their life, his enjoying being on set he seemed to really enjoy being on a smaller set and working with a smaller crew. It was affirming in many ways that we were doing something right, that we were making it a comfortable place and there was a good on set atmosphere. It was nice to have someone that did have that sort of experience who was still happy to be there and very willing to work and have a good attitude.

DC: You also have one of the most surprising cameos of the year in horror. Without saying who it is can you talk a little about how that came to pass?

DM: Yeah, so we had already cast that role I think maybe a month or two out from production. The person we cast had to drop out for personal reasons and we were really disappointed because she was really in our estimation, and mine especially, I was just really excited about this person for the role and she just unavoidably had to bow out. I think it was the same day or at least the same week it happened, I was having dinner with the person in question. The person that wound up filling the role.

Also Read: Trailer: Gruesome Backwoods Horror Movie HONEYDEW Arrives March 12th

I’d met her through mutual friends and the topic came up that this girl had to bow out and I just mentioned it as a thing that was bugging me. She immediately offered to fill the role without me prompting or anything. I actually was initially partly excited and partly skeptical and it took me about a week to really decide that it could work in a sort of strange way. Just because she’s such a public person and such a force in her own real life outside of being a really talented artist and actress. It just seemed sort of out of context for her as a persona. But then I was able to see how it could work and how it could even be…the ridiculousness of it and the unexpectedness of it could really serve that scene and that place in the story.

DC: No, I think you’re right. It adds to the general weirdness of some of the stuff in the film. Especially some of the more hallucinatory scenes.

DM: For sure, yeah.

DC: What food and cocktail pairing would you recommend while watching Honeydew?

DM: I would say maybe just a bowl of cake frosting next to a bowl of ground meat and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It’s just the most committed you can be to having the film experience. And the Mike’s Hard Lemonade obviously because there’s definitely a lot of lemon and lemonade featuring in the film, especially towards the end.

From Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting, the rural horror film Honeydew is now on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD.



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