Over the years, horror movies have taught us that few things are more terrifying than being lost alone in the woods as the sun begins to go down. But that lesson mostly seems to have escaped writer-director Roxanne Benjamin in her feature debut, the wannabe chiller Body at Brighton Rock. It takes a promising premise loaded with white-knuckle, things-go-bump-in-the-night possibilities and proceeds to do surprisingly little with them over the course of its slim 87-minute running time.
Benjamin, an on-the-rise filmmaker with credits on the indie horror anthologies XX and Southbound, makes her first fatal mistake in the casting of her lead. As an out-of-her-depth junior park ranger named Wendy, Karina Fontes doesn’t bring much spark to what essentially operates as a one-woman show. A story like Body at Brighton Rock lives or dies based on the lead’s charisma, the palpability of her fear, and the sympathy she engenders from the audience. Unfortunately, there’s very little of any of the above in this amateurish effort. Her main expression is a vacant sort of no-one’s-home blankness.
The action starts when Wendy, who’s mostly been stuck with light-lifting tasks all summer, switches assignments with her best friend Maya (Emily Althaus) to take on trail duty. She basically has to hike deep into the woodsy state park, keep close to the trails, and post some signs about bear sightings and fire prevention tips and return back to the lodge before sundown. Sounds easy enough. But none of her coworkers think that she’s up to the job, which makes her determined to prove them wrong. Thing is, they’re not wrong at all.
It doesn’t take long for the easily-spooked Wendy to stray way off of her path, lose her trail map, and realize that she’s more inept Lewis and Martin than outdoorsy Lewis and Clark. Then, just as the sun is beginning to set and her cell phone is running out of juice, she spots a dead body at the bottom of a ravine. A rescue team won’t be able to come and extract them until the following morning. Wendy has to somehow make it through the night with nothing but an on-the-fritz walkie talkie and a corpse as company. Despite those potent ingredients, Benjamin fails to make Wendy’s harrowing predicament remotely scary or suspenseful. That’s an accomplishment, no doubt about it. Just the wrong kind. C-