[Chattanooga Film Festival] Review: BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK is a Standout Feature Debut from Horror All Star Roxanne Benjamin

One of the highly anticipated horror films of the year is Roxanne Benjamin’s Body at Brighton Rock. Benjamin made a name for herself writing and directing segments of XX and Southbound, as well as producing many recent horror favorites such as V/H/S and The Devil’s Candy. While she is well known by horror fans for her previous work, this is the first feature film both written and directed by Benjamin.

The film follows a young park ranger named Wendy. She is clearly out of place in this job; she’s always late, she isn’t an experienced hiker, and she is easily frightened. To prove herself to her friends, Wendy decides to take on the task of a more experienced ranger. Along the way she finds a body. Lost and alone with the corpse, Wendy is forced to stay overnight to guard the area until help arrives.

As the audience is introduced to Wendy and watches her venture out on the trail, there is a general feeling of happiness and excitement. Then, the tone of the film changes. One of the most successful aspects of Body at Brighton Rock is the shift from happy-go-lucky to tension-filled suspense. The first clues that Wendy is lost appear moments before she discovers the dead body. The music immediately goes from fun and lighthearted to ominous. Even the cinematography changes to make it clear things have gone horribly wrong. Most people have been on a hike in the forest at some point in their lives. While most of those people have likely had fun experiences, Benjamin uses the film to show how quickly everything can change. It only takes one wrong turn, or one dead body, to turn a perfect day into a complete nightmare.

The gradual build-up of tension is very well done, but there is one aspect of the film that might be a bit more polarizing with audiences. As Wendy guards the body there is a near-constant state of suspense. At first it is just the suspense related to being lost, finding a body, and whether or not Wendy is guarding a crime scene. As darkness falls she feels the potential threats of wildlife, a murderer, and perhaps even something more sinister. Wendy sees things in the night. The film goes back and forth between making these things out to be her imagination and reality. This is an effective way to increase anxiety, but there isn’t any real resolution letting the audience know if what Wendy sees is real or not. This lack of clarity is a weaker point of an otherwise intriguing plot.

Body at Brighton Rock is almost entirely carried by a single performance. The leading lady, Wendy, is played by Karina Fontes (Southbound). Wendy is a great character because she is full of optimism and determination, yet her inexperience and lack of knowledge are what lead her to the wrong place at the wrong time. Fontes’ portrayal of the character draws the audience in because of her relatability. She then perfectly shows how Wendy has to find her inner strength if she wants to survive the night.

Body at Brighton Rock is a fantastic debut for Roxanne Benjamin. It boasts a strong performance from Fontes and an anxiety-inducing premise. While Wendy’s visions may end up confusing some viewers, it also allows them to decide for themselves whether or not the visions are real. Overall it is a highly entertaining film that will likely make people a bit more cautious on their next hike through the woods.

You can watch Body at Brighton Rock on Amazon Prime and Vudu.