My tolerance for mindless thrillers about unlucky people who stumble onto trouble in the boonies is relatively high, especially if the thrillers are executed with any modicum of restraint and style. It’s all about the vibe, baby. That said, far too many of these movies devolve into exploitive sleaze by employing rape as a major story element, and that’s when my tolerance gets tested. Hence my ambivalence toward Nightmare Honeymoon, which is a fairly slick production given its humble budget and lack of major star power: On the one hand, the flick is straightforward B-movie trash about good people falling into a spiral of danger and intrigue, but on the other hand, it’s the same old song about villains committing sexual violence against a pretty girl. Nightmare Honeymoon is far from the worst picture of its type, and in fact the filmmakers evince a measure of sensitivity while depicting the psychological effects of rape on not only the victim but also her husband. Still, another path would have been preferable.
The plot, no surprise, is simple. David (Dack Rambo) and Jill (Rebecca Dianna Smith) leave their wedding reception and head for New Orleans, where they have hotel reservations. They stop by a lake for a quick swim, then accidentally observe bad guy Lee (John Beck) committing a murder. Lee knocks David unconscious and rapes Jill, but the newlyweds escape. Thereafter, David becomes obsessed with getting revenge.
Notwithstanding brief appearances by the great character actors Pat Hingle and David Huddleston, Nightmare Honeymoon features only journeymen players, but they acquit themselves well. Rambo injects some malice into his usually bland screen persona, Smith does a fair job of expressing anguish, and Beck swings for the fences playing a horny psychopath. Never the nimblest or subtlest of actors, he’s weirdly compelling as he bulges his eyes from between his sweaty forehead and his thicket of a moustache. As for the plot, it works until it doesn’t. The setup is effective, the assault scene is handled discreetly, and the second act, depicting how the newlyweds wrestle with their new reality, has real humanity. Better still, things move along at a good pace once David begins searching for Lee. Yet Nightmare Honeymoon gets awkward in its final stretch, an operatic showdown with more than a little bit of Cape Fear (1962) in its DNA. The climax is tense and violent, but believability is an early casualty.
Nightmare Honeymoon: FUNKY