The point I keep returning to in this series is that the Lifetime network produces horror movies. While some of this is that those are the ones that sound most interesting to me, and are thus the ones I watch for review, it’s undeniable that horror is at least a plurality of what’s available on the network. The thing is, most of the horror offerings are reality-based. Some of them are direct adaptations of true crime, while others are fictionalized versions of real cases, and still others are just stuff that could conceivably happen in an upscale suburb of Vancouver.
What is notably absent, is the supernatural. The horror on the Lifetime network is solidly rooted in the real, or at least the could-maybe-possibly be real. The only movie with a supernatural element was a Henson-produced Thanksgiving movie, which featured a group of syphilitic weasels that formed a Voltron. For their horror offerings, the villains were decidedly grounded: murderous husbands, unhinged stalkers, and entitled gender-warriors.
The reasoning here, I think, comes down to who these horror movies are made for. Horror is intended to scare its audience, and most horror is made for young, predominantly white men. This demographic doesn’t really have anything real to be scared of, so you have to throw demons, ghosts, aliens, and killer dolls at them. Lifetime, is made for middle-aged women, a demographic that knows exactly what’s really dangerous in this world. So the supernatural never has much place. In the few offerings with ostensible paranormal elements, these inevitably get revealed, Scooby-Doo style, to be the cheating husband all along. Until now. Maybe.
Honeymoon From Hell is a profoundly weird entry in the Lifetime Extended Universe (which I will continue to believe is a thing), because it introduces supernatural elements, explains them away, then, at the end shrugs and goes, “Hey, maybe there was a ghost all along?” I have my own hypothesis about what they were going for, but really, I’m as clueless as I suspect the writers were.
Newlyweds Julia and Rivers (ugh) are honeymooning in Virginia. Their first stop, for some reason, is the grave of local legend Alice Flagg. Side note, that is an incredible name. Alice Flagg sounds like a pulp heroine who rides a dinosaur in George Washington’s army. Anyway, she was a rich girl who fell in love with a poor kid and was disowned and eventually killed herself. This story speaks to Julia, because she’s also from a rich family and was kind of disowned when she married poor kid Rivers. They say if you run around Alice’s grave thirteen times, you wake her up. Rivers, of course, teases Julia and runs around the grave twelve times before relenting.
They’re spending the bulk of their honeymoon at a bed and breakfast run by Mary Ellen Trainor. Okay, it’s actually a character named Hazel and played by Catherine Hicks. If you want to get that joke, listen to one of the 7th Heaven episodes on the podcast. There’s quite a cast of characters at this B&B. Hazel is charming and folksy, but there’s something not right about her from the beginning. Hicks really tears into the role with her eyeteeth, so she’s telegraphing the inevitable third act twist. There’s also her special needs foster son Bear, the handyman Walter, and the only other guest, a perpetually bikini-clad shit-stirrer named Janelle. There’s another couple there initially, but they leave pretty quickly after an inexplicable scene where Walter semi-accidentally peeps on the topless wife.
Meanwhile, Julia and occasionally others see an apparition of Alice Flagg lurking around. Julia also has a couple of possibly prophetic dreams pointing to sinister happenings around the B&B. While all this is happening, a ticking clock in the form of an incoming hurricane, promising to trap everyone indoors with a ghost and possibly a whole cadre of murderers.
In case you haven’t figured it out already, Rivers is Hazel’s son, and them, plus Bear (who isn’t special needs at all), have decided they’re going to get their hands on Julia’s trust fund. If they can provoke her to suicide, Rivers gets it all. To that end, they’ve been relentlessly gaslighting her since she showed up, spiking her drinks with low-grade hallucinogens, and generally pushing her subtly in the direction they want. Most damning though, is the “apparition” turns out to be Rivers’s girlfriend, and she’s not too happy about how he’s kind of falling for the mark.
Long story short, they all have it out. Janelle (who has a halfhearted turn to good, or at least self-preservation and is on Julia’s side) is hilariously killed with a tiny dart in the temple — you know, the ones whose points aren’t long enough to get through a skull. Julia burns the whole place down, and Rivers sacrifices himself to save her. He’s been having second thoughts since he knocked Julia up, and this sort of makes up for the abuse, I guess? Who knows.
The thing is, when Julia wakes up in a hospital bed in the end, there’s a white rose there with her. This was established as Alice Flagg’s favorite flower. Additionally, one of the dreams Julia gets specifically shows her her daughter, and in the movie’s coda, that exact girl is with Julia. So the implication seems to be that the supernatural is real, but while it’s weird and frightening, it’s ultimately benevolent. Alice Flagg saw herself in Julia, and decided to get off her undead ass and lend a hand. Or else Rivers accidentally half-woke her up. In any case, while this wasn’t what I’d call a good movie, this depiction of the supernatural is one of my favorites and can be found in at least two movies I’ve reviewed for Now Fear This.
While not particularly good, Honeymoon From Hell is weirdly relevant. Gaslighting has become a vital part in the national conversation about sexism, and we can see it rearing its ugly head whenever a bigot is dismissed as a “firebrand” or “outsider.” How does Julia solve her problem? By burning the whole house down. Gas is, after all, quite flammable.
So what did we learn? Ghosts aren’t necessarily evil. Make sure your murder or suicide doesn’t benefit anyone else financially. And if the lady from 7th Heaven is too friendly, she’s trying to kill you.