Directed by first time filmmakers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, Body is so unlike most modern-day cinematic thrillers. Instead of using stylized editing techniques, convoluted flashback sequences or overly complicated character backstories, Berk and Olsen have opted to make a compelling slow-burn of a film that has more in common with films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, Shadow of a Doubt or Rope. The film follows Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen) and Melissa (Lauren Molina), three college-age women visiting their families over winter break. As their holiday festivities start to wind down on the night before Christmas Eve, Cali convinces her friends that they should go to her uncle’s currently vacant mansion to party. After an uneasy encounter with a scraggly bearded motorist, they arrive at the estate. Though they recommence their holiday festivities with more liquor and food, Holly realizes that something is amiss, and that the mansion may not be unoccupied.
Please be aware that the trailer may reveal too much about the film for some people. Watch at your own discretion!
By making the decision to be relatively simple with the film’s set-up and allowing the sense of dread to build naturally overtime, the directing duo of Berk and Olsen have managed to create a tightly-wound thriller that feels incredibly refreshing and sincere. Even before the psychological twists and turns start to come, there’s already a great dynamic established between the three leads that makes the film enjoyable to watch from the onset. The girls talk and act like normal college age students would, and nothing they initially do is too outlandish or out of the realm of believability. There is a natural chemistry between Rogers, Turshen and Molina that makes their on-screen friendship feel very real, and its great see that friendship start to crumble over the course of the film’s traumatic events.
Another important player in Body is indie-horror filmmaker, writer and actor Larry Fessenden (We Are Still Here, Until Dawn), who’s role in the film is central to everything that happens. As an unabashed lover of indie horror and science fiction films, it’s always a pleasure to see Fessenden whether he’s playing a central role or bit part in a movie. Though I’ll be careful to avoid spoiling too much in regard to his character, his performance is captivating and succeeds in making you feel extremely uncomfortable.
Outside of the fine performances, Body’s greatest success is probably it’s pacing. With a 75-minute running time, there’s never really a dull moment in the film, and Olsen and Burk, unlike many filmmakers who fancy themselves auteur thriller directors, are clearly savvy enough to realize that audiences don’t exactly appreciate a film that spends its time meandering to get to the point. Within 20 minutes, Body manages to establish the primary conflict and all of the major players. The rest of film it’s all about the tension, shifting character dynamics and the gut wrenching choices that the characters make.
For those wanting to catch up on a few films they might have missed in 2015, Body is definitely one that should be at the top of the list. Is it groundbreaking in concept or plot? No, but I don’t think that’s necessary for a thriller to be successful. Body manages to harken back to the old ways of making these types movies, and in doing so, it rises above many lesser films that receive a wide theatrical release. I’m hopeful that the film will find an audience that appreciates what it does so well, and that Olsen and Burk will continue to find success in their careers as filmmakers.
Body is currently available nationwide on VOD.