After watching the Christmas-set thriller Body, you may just want to stay at home with your friends and loved ones during the holiday season rather than going out while under the influence of alcohol and drugs to seek mischief. Hopefully you would have made such a decision even without seeing this taut film, an effort that provides enough suspense to warrant adding it to your already busy December to-do list.
We meet main characters and good friends Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen), and Mel (Lauren Molina) as they enjoy an evening at Mel’s family home on December 23rd. The young women are all in their early twenties and are unwinding with wine and Scrabble before smoking pot, overeating, and then deciding, at Cali’s insistence, to go partying elsewhere.
Cali tells her friends that her vacationing uncle lives nearby in a swank home where they can hang out undisturbed, and the digs are impressive indeed, complete with high-end sports cars, a home video game arcade, and a fully stocked liquor cabinet. It seems to perceptive Holly, however, that Cali may not have been telling the truth about everything. A stranger’s voice suddenly calls out from downstairs and the girls make a panicked decision to escape. Unfortunately the stranger (Larry Fessenden in a performance that I can’t say too much about unless I go into spoilers, which I won’t, but most readers know that his is a trustworthy name in genre films) blocks the trio’s path and in a mere matter of moments, the lives of all four people are changed forever.
Body does a nice job of letting viewers get to know its three main characters, spending most of its first 23 minutes doing just that. Timewise this is a bit problematic, though, in that the film runs just under 69 minutes before the closing credits roll. As a matter of fact, it takes about 12 minutes before the trio arrives at the tony house and then another 11 minutes before the tension starts. Still, when things do get rolling, the trio’s personalities have been established and we have an idea of what we might expect from them individually.
The story idea of normal people in a sudden, perilous quandary isn’t wholly original but writers-directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen do an impressive job of avoiding the pitfalls and cliches of films in this vein. They weave a well-calculated, well-shot tale showing how fragile the fabric of friendship can be when preservation of self and, to an extent, family members, is at stake – how one incident and one follow-up decision can disrupt the present and affect virtually all aspects of someone’s future. The ideas suggested and decisions made by the trio of friends are sometimes puzzling but avoid the outright stupid. Berk and Olsen keep the predicaments exciting and interesting both with their screenplay and their direction, and I was thoroughly invested in if and how the friends would get through their situation. My main complaint about the screenplay would be that the dialogue, especially in the first act, sometimes comes off a bit thin and some minor characters feel a little like padding. (One very minor quibble: If you’re a continuity stickler, don’t watch the clocks in Mel’s home.) The main trio’s character arcs are cleverly executed and well developed, though. The ladies get put through a ringer and no one goes unscathed.
The main draw of Body is the acting by the three leads. Their accomplished performances keep the proceedings realistic, gritty, and believable. Helen Rogers as the vulnerable Holly, Alexandra Turshen as manipulative alpha female Cali, and Lauren Molina as the reserved, wavering Mel are fun to watch as tension mounts and things get more and more complicated. There isn’t a lot of blood but there are some violent scenes, as well as one scene in particular that most viewers will find cringe inducing, no matter how jaded from watching horror films they might be.
Body opens theatrically in the United States on December 11th and on VOD on December 29th. I enjoyed this suspenseful yarn from newcomers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen and recommend the film as an impressive low-budget debut with an engaging young cast.
Body: (3.5 / 5)