Body at Brighton Rock

Any movie that opens with Oingo Boingo's “Dead Man's Party” is obviously making a play for my heart. That said, Roxanne Benjamin's Body at Brighton Rock has more going for it than just great taste in music. This is an effective little thriller about a young woman facing her fears and insecurities in a situation where everyone expects her to fail.

Karina Fontes plays Wendy, a ne'er-do-well park ranger. To help her friend, she agrees to trade shifts. This means she has to go out and patrol a dangerous trail – a task she has not been properly trained for. Wendy defiantly trudges on anyway and, no surprise, promptly gets lost. Even more disconcerting is that she stumbles upon a dead body. After calling it in, she is advised to remain at her current location, since night is coming and she could become even more lost. Spending the night with a corpse comes with some creepy surprises.

Body at Brighton Rock has a tongue-in-cheek Murphy's Law quality going on. If it can go wrong for Wendy, it does. Most of the complications are horrific, although they occasionally have a darkly funny edge to them. The character, as written, is a little ditzy, so she creates as many of her own problems as nature does. Fontes makes that trait shine through, so we understand why her coworkers think she's doomed to fail. That makes her eventual discovery of inner strength even more potent.

It's not hard to see that Benjamin's theme is the way women are often underestimated in society. Wendy represents women everywhere who have been unfairly assumed to be incompetent, incapable, or fragile in the face of adversity. Like them, she strives to rise to the challenge when the chips are down. The movie accomplishes its mission to celebrate the resilience of women with some cleverly conceived bits designed to make you jump or get chills, including a tense encounter with an animal. Shots of the decomposing body create an eerie atmosphere, too, thanks to the ominous up-close camera angles.

Body at Brighton Rock has a few of the rough edges you expect in lower-budgeted films of this sort (i.e. using editing techniques to compensate for the lack of a stunt performer), and at times, the suspense could have been drawn out more. Enough about the movie works, though, to make it worth seeing. A thriller with a strong female voice is always a cause for celebration.

out of four

Body at Brighton Rock is rated R for language and some bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.