Blood Honey isn’t your typical family drama. While most brim with emotion, director Jeff Kopas has added paranoia, mistrust and rivalry to create an unusual psychological thriller.
Jenibel Heath (Shenae Grimes-Beech) is a young woman who returns to her family home, lodge and apiary to deal with her estranged, ailing father Marvin (Gil Bellows). Theirs is a strained relationship because of the shared grief and blame over her mother’s suicide when she was a child. Her brother Neil (Kenneth Mitchell) has been holding down the fort with a few close friends and colleagues by keeping the lodge and apiary going. Jenibel’s return is greeted with some resentment, but her goal is to re-establish a connection with her family.
When Marvin reveals that he has received a lucrative offer for the property, he makes Jenibel promise to carry out his wishes to sell the lodge, and commits suicide with the very bees he tended to. Traumatized, but determined to follow her father’s wishes, Jenibel comes head to head with her brother and long-time friends who want the home to stay in the family. When Jenibel feels she may be targeted and her life is in danger, the world she once knew becomes a nightmare. One that she must learn to navigate to save her life and sanity.
Blood Honey is a slow burn thriller told in a fever dream. Kopas, who co-wrote the film with Splice’s Doug Taylor, has cited Rosemary’s Baby and Vertigo as influences for this tension-building psycho-drama, but there is also a strong echo of The Wicker Man (both the original and remake) with the film’s isolated location, odd characters and ties to a more sinister side of the natural world. With a cast boasting Don McKellar and Rosemary Dunsmore, as well as Grimes-Beech, Brown and Bellows, you’ll get your fill of solid Canadian talent. It was also nice to see diversity by the way of Krystal Hope Nausbaum, an actor with Down Syndrome, playing Jenibel’s sister Linda, but her character needed a touch more back story since she creates more questions than mystery.
While the narrative is complicated at times, especially with its plot twists; what works here is the vein of mistrust throughout that keeps you guessing, and the constant dysfunction all the characters experience, especially Jenibel’s emotional torment. Plagued with waking dreams, we’re never sure what is real and what is a figment of her imagination, making her quest to fulfill her father’s wishes that much more difficult.
Blood Honey is the type of eerie, atmospheric thriller that will keep you thinking after the end credits roll with its Wicker Man weirdness. That’s not a bad thing though, especially for those who enjoy stranger, off the beaten track thrillers. Check it out when it opens in Toronto this Friday, September 1st at Cineplex Yonge-Dundas.