Possibly my favourite place to buy movies is the CeX chain (and not just because I call it 'the cex shop'...). And one of my most recent purchasing sprees included this 25p bargain. The Honeymoon Killers is based on the true events of a notorious duo of 'lonely hearts killers' in the 1940s.
Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) is an overweight, lonely nurse, but when her friend signs her up to a lonely hearts club, where she corresponds with Raymond Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco). The pair embark upon a relationship, despite the discovery that Ray makes a living conning women by seducing them. As the pair pose as brother and sister to draw in the lonely spinsters, Martha's jealousy at seeing Ray with other women grows. When Ray marries a pregnant woman who attempts to sleep with him, Martha gives Ray some pills to give her, which result in her death (and a hilariously cheesy 'dead face'. I love 'dead faces'.).
Little time is spent focusing on the building of the pair's relationship, by 20 minutes in, Beck has decided to leave her elderly mother and move to New York to be with Ray. Much is left out, with the story skipping between women very quickly - no sooner has one target been left or killed, Ray seems to have another lined up - meaning much more focus is given to Ray and Martha. Their relationship is tumultuous, to say the least. Seemingly, all Martha wants is Ray's love, but he seems more interested in conning the women than giving her attention - and tries to drown herself when she believes he is truly interested in another woman. Although her hapless swimming is pretty amusing, the moments where she is actually drowning are quite disturbing, especially the vocal sound collage.
The quick turnover of victims is understandable, as similarly with 1967's Bonnie and Clyde (Penn), the viewer is set in a position to identify with the couple, mainly Martha, rather than the victims - something less common within the horror genre. Stoler has an incredibly creepy face, and as Martha she provides some real menace, all driven by her love for Ray. It's only after Martha's attempted drowning that Ray shows a softer side towards her, and tries to appease her by fulfilling her wish that they move to the suburbs - but, unsurprisingly, their life on the straight and narrow doesn't last long. As for Ray, he's the kind of character that has no real likeable qualities other than when he saves Martha from a watery death. Plus, Lo Bianco's accent combined with bad articulation makes it sometimes hard to make out what he's saying.
Compared to the aforementioned Bonnie and Clyde, The Honeymoon Killers gives a much less glamorous perspective on a criminal relationship - Martha is needy and psychotic, and the couple are often at each other's throats over one thing or another. The black and white, high contrast style gives a gritty, dark feel and the casting of Stoler, a large, unconventional looking actress is a far cry from beauty Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker. The kills are a little underwhelming, especially the clunky hammer to the head of
Things get an extra dose of fucked-up with the murder of Daphne Delphine, and the drowning of her young daughter - pretty harrowing stuff. At times, The Honeymoon Killers is creepy and unnerving - but its downfall is the inability to keep the tension up. The building of suspense that shines in some moments doesn't manage to continue throughout the narrative, and gets dull at times. The story itself is an interesting one, and the films Lonely Hearts (Robinson, 2006) and Deep Crimson (Ripstien, 1996) are also based on the same story. Unfortunately, the execution is flawed. A few disturbing sequences make it watchable with hints of greatness that could have been, but the end result seems more melodrama than menace, with a less than believable love story and the odd scattering of black humour. But never mind, it cost less than a Dime bar.