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‘Body at Brighton Rock’ (review)

Produced by Roxanne Benjamin
and Christopher Alender


Written and Directed by Roxanne Benjamin
Starring Karina Fontes, Casey Adams,
Emily Althaus, Miranda Bailey, Martin Spanjers,
Matt Peters, Susan Burke, John Getz

 

I was a big fan of Roxanne Benjamin’s segment in the horror anthology Southbound so I was expecting great things from her first full-length feature film.

Sadly, I left disappointed.

The set-up for Body at Brighton Rock is terrific: A park employee finds a body in a remote location and must stay with it all night until police can arrive. (A real-life practice, as it turns out.)

Wendy (Karina Fontes) is a young, not-very-outdoorsy part-timer who is clearly in way over her head.

The movie does an excellent job of establishing who Wendy is – when we first meet her, she’s running to work, late as usual – and how she ends up off-trail in an uncharted section of the mountainous park. It also expertly conveys the eeriness and isolation of her location.

The film quickly raises the possibilities that something sinister – maybe a murder, maybe something supernatural – is at the heart of it. And now Wendy is stuck in the middle of nowhere with a corpse, all night long, where every noise makes her jump.

Her cell phone dies and so does her radio/walkie talkie, so she’s truly alone. Except for the man she briefly saw standing over the body. Is he a murderer? A lost hiker? Or did she imagine him?

The film teases every scenario imaginable: She finds an abandoned camp site that hints someone else might be near by. And mysterious scratches on the nearby trees might be the work of native bears or cougars – both of which were referenced in the day’s safety meeting — or something not of this earth.

And hey, did that body just move?

Maybe I read the synopsis wrong, but I expected something to happen out there in the woods. Just when you think something is finally happening, you realize (again) that it’s just Wendy’s imagination.

The situation is certainly ripe for a mental breakdown or fear-induced hallucinations, especially given how inexperienced Wendy is. But the film’s schlocky use of zooms to show Wendy’s POV just make the entire ordeal cheesy. And frustrating.

By the time she does encounter something in the woods, we’re convinced it’s not real. And the film’s final twist unfolds like an unsatisfying episode of The Twilight Zone.

For me, this was like watching a slow-burn horror movie like House of the Devil (in which a college student takes an odd babysitting job at a remote house) … and finding out it was just a babysitting job after all.

The premise of Body at Brighton Rock is terrific: The payoff is not.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Body at Brighton Rock is now playing in select theaters and is available On Demand.

 

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