By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK
Starring Karina Fontes, Casey Adams, Emily Althaus, and Martin Spanjers
Written and Directed by Roxanne Benjamin
When it comes to being afraid of the woods, the question really should be “what won’t kill me?” and not “what will kill me?” From haunted cabins and bears to cliffs and mountain men, it certainly feels like there is danger lurking behind each tree and boulder. BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK offers up this census of potential deathtraps in the debut feature from director Roxanne Benjamin.
Though the opening credits, set to Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party,” might have you thinking this is a horror reconceptualization of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, that is where the toe-tapping similarities end. Wendy (Karina Fontes) is late to her morning meeting at the ranger station and she is sprinting to try her best to make a graceful but late entrance. After a bit of verbal discipline from her superior, she gets her assignment for the day: she’s to spend it in the station, while most of her colleagues go out to tend to the actual park. Turns out, despite the uniform and profession, Wendy is more of an “indoor kid.”
Some shift juggling gives Wendy the opportunity to try to prove herself as a worthy ranger and she sets out on the trail for the day to add some signage about all of the possible things that might kill you on the mountain that week. Impervious to any threats, she takes her headphones and boogies her way across the trails, this time to “Point Of No Return” by Exposé.
Honestly, these big music sequences are so joyous and hilariously juxtaposed with doom and gloom warnings of imminent death, BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK would have been stronger had it stayed on this path of satire and absurdity and mixing in a little horror. However, Wendy is interrupted while changing her signage, which sends the movie off into the horror end of the spectrum.
There is nothing inherently wrong with mixing genres or being ambiguous about the nature of a threat in a horror film, but BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK never truly settles on what Wendy should be afraid of. There are plenty of options for her to choose from up on that mountain, not least of all the body mentioned in the title, but the sharp focus on terror never materializes here. There is no pivot from one horror to the next, or mounting tensions as the reasons to be afraid pile on top of one another. Wendy seems more annoyed than scared, which makes it difficult for the audience to ever fear for her life, no matter how dire it all seems.
This is not to say BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK is unsuccessful, but it is a bit uneven. The score, cinematography, and general premise are all good reasons to seek this out and enjoy it when you can. However, couch your expectations with the understanding that this is not a spear-sharp thriller. It is just about a slacker, with decent dance moves, trying to stay alive out in the woods.