Body Brighton Rock Karina Fontes

Year: 2019
Director(s): Roxanne Benjamin
Writer(s): Roxanne Benjamin
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Rating: R
Color, 87 mins

Synopsis: A park ranger spends the night guarding a potential crime scene on a remote mountain trail. (Source)

Roxanne Benjamin has been at the front of an exciting horror movement for some time now. With directorial and production credits in anthologies like XX and Southbound, she’s both helmed tonal diversity and got behind some great talent. With her first feature, Body at Brighton Rock, Benjamin has delivered a campy, no-frills survival thriller. The film’s simplicity is refreshing, taking a bare bones concept and giving it undeniable style and psychological depth. It’s also a great showcase for star Karina Fontes, who is the center of a cheeky, minimalist throwback.

Wendy (Karina Fontes) is a rookie park guide who’s just barely meeting expectations. She’s seen as soft by her co-workers, late to morning meetings, and isn’t really suited for the outdoors. After switching shifts with a co-worker on a whim, the barely trained Wendy is sent to oversee an outdoor trail. Sometime during a mostly routine day, Wendy drops her map and things take a turn. After loosing her way, she learns that search and rescue can’t reach her until the next morning. Even worse, she’s just found a dead body. Before losing reception with HQ, Wendy’s tasked with containing the crime scene and surviving the night with the little resources she has. 

To its advantage, Benjamin’s film never goes where we’d expect. Though the plot follows a seemingly predictable line, Benjamin continually toys with our expectations and that of her heroine. Thanks to a focus on Wendy’s own insecurity, a series of spiraling fears make us question what’s real. This intimate state of mind is also a nice contrast to the vast wilderness that surrounds Wendy. As the film thrives through restraint, Benjamin throws in moments of unexpected humor, offsetting tension with a few unpredictable payoffs. Ultimately, the film ends on a satisfying note. It’s grounded, relatable, and that final “gotcha” sends us off on a jolting note.

Body Brighton Rock review Karina Fontes

Aside from a few establishing scenes, the story settles into its main focus pretty quickly, leaving Wendy to her own devices and giving Karina Fontes a chance to do some dramatic flexing. As Wendy, Fontes contributes an almost slacker vibe to the entire thing. She’s far from the perfect heroine, but it’s amazing to see a “normal” person saddled with her situation. In the best way, she’s an everyday, mundane character who’s just trying to get their her own life. Fontes draws a lot from very little, selling the film’s tonal shifts with urgency and nuance.

Thanks to the quirky needle drops, a Giallo-esque score and the hallucinatory atmosphere, Body at Brighton Rock is fresh albeit small entry into the horror genre. It’s nice to see low stakes with smart structure and tension, and the DIY-vibe is playfully satisfying. In the end, Benjamin proves that overly complicated plotting and big budgets still can’t beat the horror and uncertainty of fragile, fading sanity.

SG