Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Don’t be fooled by the bright music and fun ‘80s vibe of Body at Brighton Rock. The new film from writer-director Roxanne Benjamin only wants you to think it’s a light-hearted romp at summer camp. In execution, the film is actually a modern-day survival tale about a girl lost in the woods. That’s spooky stuff, even before we realize the body in question is dead. This should be quite the juxtaposition. Unfortunately for Benjamin, it’s all her film has going for it, and it’s not nearly enough to justify even the slim run time. After the bounce of the opening credits, we meet Wendy (Karina Fontes) in a rush; she’s late for work as a park ranger. After getting chewed out by the boss, and chided by her friends Kevin (Matt Peters) and Maya (Emily Althaus), Wendy wants everyone to give her a little credit. She insists on hiking around the trails in the deep woods to prove to her more experienced coworkers that she can handle herself. We know of course that she can’t, as the film makes sure to point out how clumsy and overwhelmed she is. But hey, it seems like a fun enough summer job. A protracted montage of Wendy’s workday has her hiking around, changing park signage and fending off the awkward chatter of a co-worker—seen once and never heard from again—named Davey (Martin Spanjers). This last bit stands as just one of the many stop-and-start moments in the film. In all, Wendy just has to keep her head for a few hours and she’ll be fine. That she almost selfies herself off a rockface bodes poorly, however, and it comes as no surprise when she manages to wander off the beaten track. Still, it’s hard not to laugh at the film’s abrupt change in tone, as Wendy’s playful dancing in nature flips suddenly, complete with ominous shift in the score, to a scary afternoon of suspense. And this is before she discovers the aforementioned corpse. Now, it’s fair to ask how Body at Brighton Rock will drum up excitement through one girl’s showdown with an inanimate object. The answer is by making the girl’s decisions as dumb as possible for as long as possible; Hamlet addressing Yorick, this ain’t. Instead, Wendy panics, and everything that can go wrong miraculously does. Put in the same situation, you’d probably lose your head too, but the lengths Benjamin’s script goes to artificially create tension in the film is laughable. For instance, Wendy is told via radio—which conveniently works only sporadically—that she must stay with the body for the night as it could be part of a crime scene. As expected, this is no easy task for her, and no picnic for us either. That’s because Benjamin’s grip on this material is as loose as Wendy’s sense of direction. One second, we’re in an intense fight for survival, the next we’re chuckling at the obvious elements of foreshadowing and then we’re slapping our foreheads as Wendy blunders into yet another stupid situation. Moments meant to swell the suspense are dispelled just as fast as they’re created. Is there more than one horrific dream sequences? Of course! Is there a mysterious threatening man named Red (Casey Adams), complete with a holstered knife which the film helpfully zooms in on? You better believe it! Will those recurring claw marks have some part to play? Glad you asked! (Hope you haven’t seen The Revenant). And so on. For her efforts, relative newcomer Fontes doesn’t deserve to be dog-piled here, even if her stiff acting doesn’t lend well to terror; a world-class actress would have been left stranded too. The rest of the cast, largely relegated to voices on the other end of a radio, don’t have much else to do—and as such can avoid our scorn. And while, yes, Adams does make Red feel like something of a menace, he’s more concept than character. In short, the acting in Body at Brighton Rock can’t distract us from its overall limited range, its repetitive forced setups and payoffs, and, again, those damn dumb decisions. Not every film’s protagonist needs to be likeable, or even competent, but we should have some reason to want them to get out of the woods, literal or otherwise. The title Body at Brighton Rock recalls John Sturges’ 1955 crime drama Bad Day at Black Rock, but intentional or not, this tenuous connection is the cleverest thing about Benjamin’s film. The films share nothing else in common, but Sturges’ lean work, with a plot both direct and allusive, achieves the claustrophobic suspense and climactic release Benjamin can only strain for. Forgive the digression; much like its main character, you’d rather be elsewhere too.