Look, we all know most of you will be hitting the theaters this weekend to see Avengers: Endgame. If you are looking for something less crowded and (significantly) more frightening, allow me to suggest you save the trip to a movie theater and check out Body at Brighton Rock. It’s a tight, terrifying thriller set in the great outdoors and you can watch it from the comfort of your own home on VOD. Skip all those long lines and loud theater goers, and opt for a well made little flick that is chock full of horror easter eggs and suspense.
Part crime thriller, part survival horror, Body at Brighton Rock begins with self doubt. Karina Fontes, who you may remember as Alex in Southbound, plays Wendy, a young new forest ranger at a very mountainous national park. She feels insufficient next to the more experienced staff and yearns to prove herself. When she sees a very difficult job on a remote trail open up, she takes it.
Wendy finds the task daunting and begins to think maybe she’s not up to the task. She gets lost, she loses her radio and her phone has no reception…and then she loses her map. Wendy tries to figure a solution to the problem but all her turns are wrong and she finds herself deeply lost. It would appear listening to music on her phone this whole time maybe wasn’t the best idea, because now her phone is dead too. True, she didn’t have service, but what if she found a pocket of service not to mention that the camera and flashlight might have also come in handy.
Unsure where to go next, Wendy heads to the top of a high ridge to find her way back onto the right path, but things only get worse when she stumbles upon a dead body. This is in a section of the park people don’t normally explore, and the person is not geared up for a hike at all. This doesn’t look like an accident. This is a crime scene. So, what is she supposed to do? Does she stay there in the middle of the backcountry alone overnight? Should she try and find the ranger station and/or help in some form? If she leaves, will she not get more lost in the night? Will she be able to find her way back if she does succeed in finding the station in the dark?
Things get worse still when she finds a radio and a tiny spot where she can get through to the ranger station. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, it would be, but all she learns is that she is very far off path, no one can come to her at the moment and, there is an active wildlife warning in that section. This is the whole movie. When something seems to be going right, it goes so very wrong just as fast. She finds the radio, then drops and breaks it. Someone shows up, but he doesn’t offer help and truly creeps her out. There is no room for her to catch her breath. Wendy has to face her fears and her self doubt, all while trying to figure this shit out! She is absolutely terrified of being out in the dark and we experience that terror right along with her. The fact that Wendy is young is not lost on me and it is clear this story is for a younger audience, but not because it is simplistic or juvenile. No, the reason it is tailor-made for a young audience lies in it’s themes.
We are now a world that is instantly and immensely connected. If I want to talk with a friend in New Zealand I can instantly, despite the tens of thousands of miles between us. While that may be a marvel for someone (like me) in their 40’s, it’s just how life is for the young. They have never known any different. The idea that they would have to resort to actually using a physical map is crazy, but imagine you didn’t even have that map. No computer, no wifi, no friends, no phone and no internet of any kind. Take all that and mix it with being out in the middle of nowhere in the woods next to a dead body, and you’ve just made nightmare fuel for anyone born in this couple of decades.
Body at Brighton Rock uses it’s place in history well in that way and speaks clearly to that demographic. For me, a person who isn’t really tech savvy and loves the outdoors, I can’t say I found this movie particularly scary. Then again, that’s because of my background. I grew up in Texas and have hunted and tracked in the wilderness since I could walk. I also grew up the son of a mortician. So, dead bodies and being deep in the woods are not things that get me all worked up. That said, this movie is not aimed at me, so these criticisms are not a knock on it at all. I’m just not the target audience. If you are, then it might well be the most terrifying movie you see all year.
Although the movie has a fairly small budget, they use what they have fantastically and is incredibly well photographed. Through tight shots and sweeping drone footage, the setting is brought beautifully to life by cinematographer Hannah Getz (Bender). The landscape shots especially are just breathtaking. The movie also feels very realistic and grounded due to great performances and solid cinematography. But credit is also due to sisters Courtney and Hillary Andujar (Sense8, Sorry to Bother You) who create a design that feels very realistic and believable.
Director Roxanne Benjamin makes me very excited to see what she’ll do next. Benjamin’s debut was the fantastic Southbound, followed by the even better XX and now Body at Brighton Rock. She is batting 1000 as far as I am concerned, and not only does she put out quality thrillers, she uses primarily female casts and crews. This thrills me to no end. I can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve and hope her filmography only continues to grow.
If you’re looking for a tense thriller isolated in a gorgeous setting, this is the movie for you. If you were born in the last two decades, you will probably have your pants scared right off. Tell us what you think on social media, but do so before you head down that trail. I hear there’s no reception. Let us know what you thought of Body at Brighton Rock on Twitter, in the NOFS Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!