I didn’t realize one of my biggest fears was getting lost in the woods until it happened to me. And I was lost in suburban woods. That is, at a certain point of walking, I popped out into a suburb. That’s decidedly not the case with the latest film I watched.
In 2019’s Body at Brighton Rock, Wendy (played by Karina Fontes) is an employee at a mountain state park when she gets lost in the park. Worse than that, she encounters a dead body and has to stay with it overnight until help can get to her.
This is the second film I’ve watched from 2019 on a streaming service (this one was on Hulu) that was overlooked, but a fun gem. Uncovering movie gems was one of my favorite things to do back when Blockbuster used to be a thing.
Directed by Roxanne Benjamin on a budget of $2 million (which is actually more than The Vast of Night had; I’m surprised by that), the film is as bare bones as it can get. The vast majority of the film is put on the back of Fontes.
Fontes is great and shows that “final girl” in horror movie spark. I could see her getting more roles going forward. She has that perfect blend of stumbling naivete with strong perseverance and resourcefulness. All of which makes you want to root for her to survive.
It’s funny because the way the film starts with Wendy running and stumbling late to the state park’s morning meeting of other state park employees, the film came across like a classic 1980s film. The title font also was reminiscent of the 1980s. In addition, the film totally could have worked as a Super Troopers but with state park employees film. It had that zany vibe as well.
Unfortunately, the film is not actually set in the 1980s since we see smartphones and such, and they don’t have much time to play up the zaniness because we have to get to Wendy getting lost.
The best sequence of the film, and the one I was waiting for, comes at the end when Wendy encounters a bear. I’m assuming nearly the entire $2 million budget went to the bear because I’m not sure how they pulled off the bear sequence. It’s genuinely impressive! It doesn’t look like some CGI bear or some dude dressed as a bear. It looks like a real deal, “Holy hell, that’s a bear!” bear.
In between the zany beginning and the heart-pounding bear finale, Wendy wants to prove that she can handle working that trail. Instead, she gets lost. Then she finds the dead body. And to make matters worse, there’s another guy up there with her. Is he the murderer?! He even comes back later to “stalk” her and seems to be trying to kill her. She kicks him off the mountain and he takes a heck of a free fall to his death.
It turns out at the end that the person she thought was potentially the murderer was actually the dead man. People said they saw that coming, but I didn’t. That “twist” got me. So, was she hallucinating the person or was he haunting her? It seems up to interpretation. She does suffer a concussion later on, but she was already seeing the guy before then, so I’m leaning toward the latter.
Fontes’ best moment is when she’s psyching herself up by hovering over the dead body and telling herself she’s not scared of a dead body; it’s not a big deal. That’s great “final girl” material right there!
Overall, for a small-budgeted horror flick, I thought this worked to demonstrate how scary (and underrated of a scare it is) to be alone in the vastness of nature, and with a dead body at that. Again, Fontes showed a lot of potential in being able to carry a 90 minute film nearly herself, although the bear ended up stealing the show, to be fair.