Written by: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer
Apart from the prologue and epilogue, Body at Brighton Rock is almost single location with a single actor, in the vein of Locke or last year’s The Guilty. The key to the success of those two films was the extremely compelling characters played by charismatic actors (Tom Hardy and Jakob Cedergren) in high stakes situations, where the tension is expertly ramped up to a conclusion. Unfortunately, Brighton Rock has neither the character or the situation to maintain an audience’s interest for its run-time. Part of this might be down to director Roxanne Benjamin being used to working in the short format and Body at Brighton Rock certainly feels like a short, stretched to feature length. The middle – in which actor Karina Fontes has to hold our attention alone – drags its feet instead of gripping us and keeping us on the edge of our seat.
The only back-story or introduction we get to Wendy (Karina Fontes) is that she’s late to work – which presumably is to make her seem kooky and relatable. We briefly see her interact with her sarcastic boss Sandra (Miranda Bailey) and her flirtatious friends Maya (Emily Althaus) and Craig (Brodie Reed), but we’re really not given enough to let us get to know this central character or care about her. The introduction also makes it seem as if this is going to be a comedy-horror and then that tone is never returned to again. Wendy goes out into the wilderness of the forests and mountains of a National Park, doing her job as a Park Ranger not very well. She gets lost and ends up at the titular Brighton Rock, where she stumbles upon the eponymous body. Through cellphone and radio messages, she is instructed to stay with the body overnight until she can be found in the morning.
Of course, the woods are filled with spooky noises, shadows and every other horror cliche you can think of. Yes, the body itself is pretty gross but other than that, the scares are not effectively built up and there is zero creepy atmosphere – it is just a damp squib. Tension is attempted to be introduced through a mysterious man who appears seemingly out of nowhere and starts talking to Wendy. The fact that he interacts with her at all immediately diffuses what could have been a genuine threat. Yes, he’s a bit creepy, but fear of the unknown is much more effective than fear of the known. While there is some stunning overhead footage of the National Park, the actual clearing in which most of the ‘action’ takes place feels like the kind of set you see in a sitcom where your favorite characters go camping. It just doesn’t feel dirty, gritty or real.
Fontes does a good job of trying to keep us ‘with’ Wendy – the fault is not in her performance, it is in the writing – particularly of story structure. The cinematography, editing and sound design are in no way combined to create a world you feel part of or can get lost in. A film like this strongly relies on empathy with the protagonist and the characterization has not been developed strongly enough for us to feel anything but annoyance towards Wendy. Last year’s Revenge (directed by Coralie Fargeat) did a much more effective job of creating a character with motivations to get invested in, who we are willing to succeed. Wendy’s only personality trait is that she’s a bit timid and scatter-brained and not great at her job, however her desire to prove herself is not conveyed powerfully enough for us to get behind her. She makes stupid choices which almost make you wish she got some sort of comeuppance.
The last ten minutes or so are a bit more exciting – there is the introduction of a wild animal and a twist of sorts – but it is too little, too late. It is perhaps a mistake to name your horror film in such a way as to remind people of one of the tensest and well-acted thrillers of all time (Brighton Rock, 1948), as it was never going to live up its name. This film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and does not not provide a central character worth caring about. If you’re going to write a film in which the audience is alone with the protagonist for the majority of the run-time, you have give us a reason to invest that time and unfortunately, it’s just not here in Body at Brighton Rock.
Author: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer
Brit living in Southern California.
Former teacher of Media and Film Studies.
Current film writer for jumpcutonline.com, moviejawn.com and others.