Avalon Fast’s directorial debut comes from a place deep within the murk of adolescence. Honeycomb exposes something vile and alive — something adults forget about as they age. It’s like a Lynchian creature in the way it drills through an ordinary, ennui-filled outer layer to find the madness lurking beneath. Though it is rough around the edges, the technical naivete of the filmmaking seems at home here: Fast deftly wields her ramshackle components, transmuting them through an old-school, art-house influence. Ultimately, this debut exposes the barbed horror that bored young women hold within them and the destruction they can cause, and points to the immense talent contained within Fast.
Honeycomb follows a group of five young women — Willow (Sophie Bawks-Smith), Leader (Destini Stewart), Jules (Jillian Frank), Vicky (Mari Geraghty), and Millie (Rowan Wales) — who are on their final summer break of adolescence before they separate and depart for college. Bored by the sleepy sameness of their town, the girls decide to move into a small cabin that one of them finds. They plan on spending their final summer days there, without parents or boys. The girls eventually decide to create a code of law, reminiscent of something like the Code of Hammurabi: rudimentary rules of behavior, one of which follows the force of Hammurabi’s eye for an eye rule. The girls mostly party and get high in the cabin, sometimes inviting boys and other friends from town. The kicker is that the boys have to be chaperoned over to the cabin blindfolded so that nobody but the girls knows how to reach the secluded haven. As the summer wears on, the girls learn not just about the brutality contained within their new laws, but also the viciousness within themselves. The rest of the film unfurls like the claws of a mighty beast as we watch these girls descend into a beautiful madness.
What makes Honeycomb so engaging is its unfettered-ness. It’s very clearly a low-budget, do-it-yourself project, but it works because it isn’t held back by any practical limitations this may pose. Every aspect of the stage dressing is used to perfect effect in the cabin, creating a space that is very obviously inhabited by young women: it’s messy but is adorned with dainty lights, full of feral cats, and rings with the girls’ voices. The girls’ outfits themselves work to complement the mood of the film stunningly. Everything every character wears was apparently sourced at a flea market, and the effect of this is that the girls look like they were plucked out of The Virgin Suicides, a film from which Fast takes much inspiration. The set and costumes speak to the vibrancy of the girls’ minds — vibrancy that the town had been suppressing. Through the girls’ environment, Fast seems to say that, as the girls’ personalities are freed, so too is their viciousness. Honeycomb depicts how the girls descend into horror well, and its bare-bones aesthetic brilliantly complements the girls’ gradual collapse.
Certainly, there are some bits — for example, certain transitions and framings, and the fleshing out of certain characterizations — that could be refined, but these are almost negligible in the face of what Fast and her team have created. Because so many deliciously horrific influences can be seen in her work, it’s clear that she has a deft grasp of horror as a genre and the rickety-ness of art-house horror as a subgenre.
Fast wields the aesthetic of low-budget horror to her advantage to create a film with deep respect for the horrific story it wants to tell — respect that allows her to have her protagonists dive unabashedly into a madness we don’t often get to see on screen. This makes Honeycomb a unique and compelling creation with a distinct vision, and an eerie movie that will incite unease in viewers in the best way. Keep an eye out for Fast; there is greatness in her future.