Thursday, September 12, 2019

Body at Brighton Rock

Mild spoilers.

And now for possibly the worst movie of 2019. It's sad to say, because I like to see these indie flicks so I can recommend them and maybe get them bigger audiences. If I had known how bad it was going to go, I wouldn't have watched it at all; but now that I have, I can't let its strange offenses pass by unchecked.

It starts out so normal...

Wendy is an inexperienced park ranger who gets herself into trouble by switching duties with her friend so she can flirt with another employee. Now instead of manning an info desk, she's out in the wild, and soon enough, lost. Then she finds a dead body. A creepy, decaying one. The guy on the radio says she has to stay there overnight until they can come and find her, but she's worried about bears... and the gross dead guy... and that one weird living guy who she ran into. It's going to be a long night.

For her and for us. The movie isn't an hour and a half dripping wet and with the credits included but is still packed with filler, including two nightmare sequences, and a full song-length sequence where she dances down the trail pre-getting lost. Actually, the dancing might have been my favorite part of the movie. Point is, the script has no meat on it at all. And then the things that need to happen (like her getting lost) take way too much time and/or are contrived into oblivion. One instance of bad luck I can handle, but each repeat adds to the irritation, and everyone knows about the straw that broke the camel's back.

I feel like I lasted an admirable amount of time. 

For me the final straw was when night falls and she begins having nightmares in which the dead body turns zombie. This movie is rated R, but up until that point the movie had been nearly Hallmark levels of upbeat and family-friendly. The only thing that would hint at future horrors was moments in which suspense would build (she hears a noise or finds claw marks on a tree) that ends with nothing happening. I think the idea was to build suspense in a constant fashion until the true threat arrives, but they instead built suspense in short bursts which would relieve.

The result is not only ineffective in the long run, but also maddening in the short term as each individual moment of suspense is worthless to the story on its own. Arguably the zombie isn't though; at that point it's used to give Wendy an opportunity to face her fears and prove herself; but as it's only a dream it's hardly impressive of her, and doesn't prove her any more capable of surviving the woods than she was before. That would be like me managing to sleep alone after Hereditary and claiming that experience would help me survive a demon-possessed death cult.

She tells the body "I'm not afraid of you!" and she's magically not afraid anymore. 

Being brave is nice, but she was that either way, for spending the night there. After that, the movie goes even more off the trail than turning into a full-on zombie horror film, with ridiculous and insensible things that I will not divulge for spoilers. Maybe the idea was to subvert expectations (a little late for that trend, it's dead already) because when the movie started out with Wendy arriving late to morning orientation, trying to sneak in, and getting caught with a sarcastic "Nice of you to join us!" I figured the movie had its cards on the table.

But it tried to move away from those cliches, attempting to explore some thematic places that it is simply not equipped to (just like Wendy!) and fumbling its way through without tact or understanding (just like Wendy). It throws out ideas that in competent hands might have become compelling, but with inexperienced handling are disjointed, ADHD sketches. I do always like when a movie's aura reflects that of its protagonist... but mirror her good qualities, like her quirky charm, instead of the shortcomings she's supposed to overcome.

If this movie isn't absolutely stupid, it certainly fooled me. 

Body at Brighton Rock is barely even a cohesive story. A spectacular feat, considering how simple and foolproof its premise was. Probably that was the root of its problem; that simplicity wasn't enough to make a feature-length film, so they padded it out with distracting, half-baked -- no, raw dough -- ideas that only tore down what little good they had. What a kerfuffle. Like Wendy, I'm just glad it's over.

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