I’ve been lost in the woods. It’s a complete hoot let me tell ya. There is a firm grip of fear placed upon you and the spiraling thoughts of “hey I might die out here” combined with a heightened state of overall “Oh, fuck.” Roxanne Benjamin’s (Southbound, XX, VHS) latest film Body at Brighton Rock captures those elements succinctly making for a damned spooky night in the woods and a fun night at a midnight movie.
The story centers on Wendy (Karina Fontes) junior park ranger. When we first meet Wendy, who is stumbling in late for her shift, it’s clear that she isn’t the park ranger’s biggest asset. In a move to gain some respect from her fellow co-workers, Wendy switches duties with another ranger. This tasks her with hiking out quite a ways and switching some advisory signs.
Once she looses her direction and stumbles upon a dead body in the woods it becomes an all out fight for survival.
Wendy stepping into the woods is essentially our protagonist stepping into the old dark house. We all know this is going to go bad for her but are along for the ride. Fontes gives a memorable performance as Wendy. Her choices for the character make Wendy a totally lovable, relatable protagonist and one that we can all cheer for… even when she is prone to mistake after mistake.
The palettes and tone of the film are eclectic and change from entirely playful frames that are reminiscent of early John Hughes’ sensibilities complete with a new wave driven soundtrack, to the later dread inducing claustrophobic, dark confines of the woods.
The sound design is incredible as well. Similar to 63’s The Haunting, Body at Brighton Rock’s sound becomes its own character. Unexpected strings shrieking adds to complete fluid and effective jump scares. It’s constantly evolving and experimental as heck and never allows the audience to rest.
Benjamin who writes and directs, plays with several components as well as possible and fully realized antagonists… or possible antagonist. It’s hard to know exactly what direction the film is going to take making it a treat for genre fans like myself, who tend to see the blueprint of films early on. It manages to keep you guessing by combining real corporeal fears with moments of psychosis and skewed dream logic.
Body at Brighton Rock is a tight, fun survival thriller with a lot of spookiness going on in its runtime. It’s a feast of shifting genre pieces that make for a terrifying night in the woods and an ending that effectively sticks with you. It is an entirely a two fisted approach to a lost in the woods Twilight Zone episode and I’m entirely here for it.