Take a Drink: every time one of the girls jokingly says something shitty to her friends.
Do a Shot: for each progressively terrible thing the girls do.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Four Beers) –
It’s Christmas Eve. Best friends Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen), and Mel (Lauren Molina) are tipsy, finishing up their game of Scrabble, and unwilling to end their night so early. Cali suggests that they go crash at the lavish mansion belonging to her rich, vacationing uncle.
After a few hours of partying, it’s revealed that this is not the mansion belonging to Cali’s uncle, but rather that of a family she used to babysit for. Moments later, the groundskeeper Arthur (Larry Fessenden) stops by the house, and in a flurry of panic, the girls fatally push him down the stairs. What follows is an uncomfortably fucked-up mind game as the girls try to decide what they need to do next.
The movie is well filmed, with many of the staples of horror in the opening act (including my personal favorite, a POV shot of the characters from behind a bush or other object) and a handful of symmetrical establishing shots a la Wes Anderson. It’s tense, moody and really cool. Each of the girls, as well as Arthur (again, the legendary Larry Fessenden), is extremely well-acted. There’s a real sense of desperation and tension as the three girls try to decide what do to.
The characters, though very well-acted, don’t do much on the page. Embodying distinct female horror stereotypes, they never break out of their molds and do little of interest beyond what is demanded of their cookie cutter characters. There is the conniving leader, the moral compass, and the nondescript could-go-either-way tertiary friend. In fact, it’s almost difficult to even recall any profound character moments from any of the girls that aren’t in service of a move to the next plot point. There’s a bit of setup in the first scene that gives us some insight into each girl’s personality, but none of it has any payoff.
There ends up being little substance to the film as a whole. There’s “lean” and then there’s “thin.” Body unfortunately trends more towards the latter. At just over 70 minutes, this movie is over quickly, and a rare example of a film that could have used more time to better develop its characters and plot. The movie toys with an interesting idea, but doesn’t delve into it with a richness that would define a truly great psychological thriller. Instead we get what almost amounts to a tease of a longer movie, with snippets and highlights instead of a fully-formed narrative.
The film jumps into, and exits, the third act so quickly that it’s jarring. It almost feels as though the writers had an idea, and had most of a script, and finished things up as quickly as they could to be done with it. A third act should serve to test the characters, and give us a reason to care for them as well as advancing them as people. These girls shift gears extremely abruptly from innocent bystanders to conniving villains, and it immediately lets go of any reason to really empathize with them.
Body has a number of good moments and is almost universally well-acted (with the exception of Holly’s boyfriend Ben, who spouts some of the worst line readings of recent memory). It’s well filmed as well, with a deft grasp of framing and staging thanks to DP Matt Mitchell. A clever, claustrophobic thriller ends up botching the landing, even feeling as though part of the last third is just missing. It’s frustrating that the film comes so tantalizingly close to amazing, and falls just short. It’s worth checking out for its strokes of ingenuity, but temper your enthusiasm, as it will fall just short of those expectations. I want to see more from this team of writers, directors, and producers, but their projects need to be more fully-formed to truly create a lasting impact beyond their clever premises.