In her seminal book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film author Carol J. Clover posits that horror films are not rooted in the joy of violence. Rather, the thrills this genre offer stem from an empathetic view by the audience of the (typically female) protagonist. She touches upon shifting gender roles, both in society and the cinema, and how the final girl is an empowering trope. If you haven’t read it, despite its age, it is well worth it for a dynamic take on horror. I believe Clover would be thrilled with Body At Brighton Rock’s exploration of female identity and strength of will.
Marking the feature-length writing and directing debut of Roxanne Benjamin Body At Brighton Rock takes place in the titular park. Wendy (Karina Fontes) likes her job as a park ranger there but is consistently late. This is partially due to the basic assignments her superior Sandra (a fun Miranda Bailey) give her. However, those kid-centric and easy tasks are due to her low-level clearance. One day, her friend and co-worker Maya (Emily Althaus) wants to switch jobs with Wendy. Wendy agrees as this will let Maya hit on one of their co-workers.
Wendy heads out to the woods to switch out the signage. While she’s dancing about the trail, her co-worker Davey (Martin Spanjers) scares her. He apologizes and offers to help her out since he caused her to scatter the papers to the winds. Wendy declines the offer, as she’ll be done soon. As she climbs to the peak of Hitchback Ridge, she takes a selfie to send to Maya. Maya informs Wendy that she is not on Hitchback and that there is a body just below the ridge she’s on.
“…Wendy has just the corpse, her thoughts, and the stories of the woods being haunted to keep her company atop the mountain peak.”
Wendy radios her superiors, and they call cops. However, due to the time of day, the authorities will probably not be able to get to Wendy until the morning. Now, Wendy has just the corpse, her thoughts, and the stories of the woods being haunted to keep her company atop the mountain peak. Or is she? While scouting the area, she stumbles upon Red (Casey Adams) investigating the body. Did he kill the man? Does Red now want to kill her or is he honestly just a hiker?
Roxanne Benjamin has worked on a few horror anthologies such as the atmospheric Southbound. Her understanding of the genre is evident from the first frames. Body At Brighton Rock opens with a postcard-esque shot of the park’s forest as the bright yellow credits flash across the screen. This sense of ease is juxtaposed right away with Wendy’s fast running as she tries to get to work on time. Horror is all about jarring one out of their comfort zone, and the tranquil, almost comedic credits followed by scenes of such speed do just that. However, they do that in a non-threatening way.