Body at Brighton Rock is a new thriller that is the feature debut of writer-director Roxanne Benjamin. The film follows a low-level park ranger who, after discovering a dead body on a remote trail, is forced to stay overnight to guard the crime scene. It debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
The core story of this movie is a relatively straightforward survive-the-night thriller, albeit one that is done mostly effectively. One thing that the film does quite well is making the threat ambiguous, the protagonist’s paranoia and suspicion being the main driving force of the story rather than a true antagonist. It is easy to get caught up in this world because you are kept in the same darkness as the protagonist.
This is very much a slow-burn thriller, and because of that, some audiences may be put off by the seeming lack of excitement in the first half of the movie. However, there is tension building throughout to a climax that is satisfyingly bloody and bonkers, if a bit short. The film did have an obligatory twist ending too, but it is best to ignore that in favor of the ending that came before, as it is much more enjoyable.
That being said, the movie would have been even more effective had the character development been stronger. As the audience, we care about the protagonist because of the situation in which she finds herself and because her personality is relatively charming, but she is given very little else in terms of relatable characteristics. The backstory of the character should have been explored with more depth to make her more sympathetic.
The film also seemed to have an issue settling on the tone which it hoped to achieve. The beginning of the movie appears to be very retro and almost campy, but once the film takes its dark turn of the protagonist discovering the corpse, it becomes entirely serious and straight-faced. Although both portions of the movie are quite enjoyable, it would have been had Benjamin opted to stick to one side or the other, giving the film more cohesiveness.
One of the weaker portions of the movie is the acting, although this seems to be related to the issues in finding a consistent tone. The performances are truly all over the place, some being wacky and over-the-top and others being more subdued. Even within the lead performance of Karina Fontes, both of these extremes can be seen. Fontes does a solid job of carrying the film, though her performance, like the movie, would have benefitted from some more consistency.
On a technical level, the film was mostly strong. There are a few shots that were gimmicky and the score did at times drop into cheesiness, but otherwise, it is mostly impressive. The shots that showcase the scenery of the forest in which the movie was shot are absolutely gorgeous. The camera did a great job of giving the setting a dual nature: beautiful and alluring by day and eerie and menacing by night.
Overall, Body at Brighton Rock was a solid indie thriller film. It won’t make huge waves, but it is entertaining and pretty well-shot, so it is worth a watch if you get the chance and are a fan of the genre.
Body at Brighton Rock hits theaters and VOD on April 26.