#FestiveFrights: Christmas Is Anything but Heartwarming in Robert Neilson’s Anti-Festive Thriller ‘Hank & Honey’

To conclude this year’s #FestiveFrights programme we bring you, perhaps, the most anti-Christmas film in the series yet! Robert Neilson’s Hank & Honey follows the titular Hank as he settles into a winter’s evening in front of the TV. Unbeknownst to him, there is someone in his home who seeks to disrupt his lazy Christmas plans in a potentially violent twist. Twelve Cabins caught up with Neilson as we round out our #FestiveFrights series to talk creating the perfect antithesis to the heartwarming Christmas movie.

How did you arrive at the concept for Hank & Honey

I was a bit bored, and in December work usually slows down quite a bit, so I decided that I wanted to make a short to send out essentially as a Christmas card to all of my friends. I think my heart is three sizes too small to make a feel good holiday film, so naturally I was going in the direction of something a bit mean spirited. I quickly cobbled together the script while I was in a food coma during Thanksgiving, and then we were shooting about a week and a half later. We shot in my house over two nights, so I was able to pre-light everything during the day which helped get through the work in about six hours each night. That was key, since I crewed this with all of my friends who were all essentially working for free and I didn’t want to take too much advantage of them, or the cast who certainly were not in it for the money. If I remember correctly we were shooting Dec 5th & 6th, and I sent the completed film out to everyone on the 18th. 

What interested you in making both a horror film and a holiday movie?

Everyone knows that Halloween is a far superior day to all holidays, and I thought this film would finally help us godless heathens win the war on Christmas that conservative media has been fighting in the trenches. 

Ha! Travis’ performance is great too. What interested you in having a protagonist that’s just the right amount of unlikeable? 

Travis is such a super likeable guy too, so I think that it speaks to his acting abilities. But he does have that face… thinking about it, you just kinda wanna poke him with a stick for no reason. I feel like in horror movies there’s a bad trope of unlikeable characters that you’re kinda rooting for the killer to finish off, but I didn’t want to go too far and just based him off the idealised asshole version of myself. My wife always laughs because that scene with Travis at the breaker box is basically how I sound when I’m fixing anything in the house. 

Can you remember how you arrived at the film’s amazing ending?

I wanted the audience to think they knew exactly where this was all going, and throw them a curve ball. I think that’s how the best shorts work, if you treat it almost like a twilight zone episode and don’t let the end be telegraphed like you’re watching the trailer to a Zemeckis film. I think at this point a Santa Claus slasher/killer is probably a little tired, despite there not being too many horror movies about it, big shout out to the incredible Christmas Evil, but I tried not to think about that too much and just hope we were making something that my friends would laugh at. 

It’s five year since its release, how have you found the audience reception to Hank & Honey?

It’s gotten some good response from the folks that have seen it, but I’m not sure it’s really found an audience yet. It’s too stupid to play in serious film festivals, and not enough horror to play in horror festivals. I don’t want to even think about a festival of Christmas movies. I hope that it gets a little bit more shelf life, thanks to you for helping push it out there. 

What’re you working on now? 

Covid put a stop to all of our productions at the moment. But we’ve been working on a comedy pilot called Just the Bit, that’s not quite stand up, not quite sketch, and that will get completed this winter when we shoot a show intro, and then after that I have a short film entitled Mitch and Brick that will work as a proof of concept for a feature. It’s about a lonely guy getting catfished into helping an escaped convict flee the country.

If you’d like to watch more Christmas-set horror shorts that are featuring throughout December as part of our #FestiveFrights programme, click here.

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