One of the great drama tropes in the story in which ordinary people are caught in an extraordinary situation, and willing to go to incredible lengths to get out of it. Body is one of those films, with all the bickering and moral issues that follow a painful mistake, and it plays out exactly as those films always do. It is efficiently made, if far too predictable to really thrill.
On Christmas Eve, three young coeds – Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen) and Mel (Lauren Molina) – decide to trade in the sleepy boredom of an evening at home for a little holiday mischief. Cali leads them to a large house that she claims belongs to her uncle, and the three head inside for a bit of fun. Things soon take a turn for the worse when Holly is grabbed by a mysterious stranger, and reacts by pushing him down the stairs – it transpires that this man was the groundskeeper (Larry Fessenden), and the three women have very different ideas on how to deal with the situation.
I’ve seen comments about Body that suggest you’re better off knowing as little about it as possible before you watch in order to get the maximum impact from it – my reaction to that would be that, even if you knew nothing, it is so predictable a film you can probably figure where it is heading as soon as they reach the house. The film is a very brisk 75 minutes in length, and it heads through its familiar beats at a steady enough pace, but it never really builds the tension that it aims for.
It is also somewhat sad, given its lean runtime, that it finds time to dwell on details that don’t really go anywhere. Early in the film, the three drive past a bearded man whose car has broken down – they stop briefly only to immediately hurry on. It seems as if he is being set up to pay some role later on, but that never materialises. The whole first ten minutes are (I believe) intended to help characterise the three lead roles, but it doesn’t really come across – they mostly sit around, smoke some drugs and play Scrabble.
Sadly, even if any work were put into the characterisation early on, it would be wasted later on anyway. The moment things start to get serious, the girls are immediately transformed into stock types – the conniving one, the one who wants to do the right thing and the one who is easily manipulated – and they don’t get to budge from this setup. It’s a bit of a shame, because there is some easy chemistry between the three actresses, but this can’t stand up to the script forcing their behaviour to become more and more unrealistic. Horror maverick Fessenden doesn’t get a lot to do, which is handy as he can be a bit of a ham – mostly, he is wounded and whispering. There is a good scene in which the direction makes his motionless form quite intimidating, but it doesn’t last particularly long.
There are good moments to this movie, but they are few and far between. The movie lacks enough character depth to generate the tension it seeks, and its unoriginality doesn’t play to its favour – the runtime means it has no time to offer anything more than a bare bones plot of something we’ve seen before. It packs in enough wrinkles and little story beats to keep going, and it is pleasant enough when it does, but you won’t remember this one long after viewing it.
Director: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Cast: Helen Rogers (Holly), Alexandra Turshen (Cali), Lauren Molina (Mel), Larry Fessenden (Arthur), Adam Cornelius (Ben), Dan Brennan (Mr Greenberg)
Running Time: 75 Mins
Image credit: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/body-2015