'Body': Slamdance Review

Body Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Slamdance Film Festival

Body Still - H 2014

This girls’ night out gets way out of hand.

Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s feature debut co-stars Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen and Lauren Molina

A relatively harmless prank goes way wrong in Body, an occasionally involving low-budget thriller that’s too often less than thrilling. Slack scripting and unimaginative directing don’t bode well for theatrical release, which may consign the film primarily to late-night viewing on digital platforms.

The opening scenes find Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen) and Mel (Lauren Molina), best friends visiting home for the holidays, unsuccessfully trying to kill some seasonal boredom hanging out at home. Cali impulsively suggests a visit to her uncle’s nearby mansion while he’s out of town with his family, since his place is well-supplied with booze and entertainment options. Letting themselves into the vast home with a hidden key, the women raid the liquor supply and start up a round of vodka-pong. Holly notices, however, that many of the photos around the house depict an Asian family and after much dissembling, Cali admits that she’s completely unrelated to the owners, although she used to babysit their kids.

Alarmed to discover they’re trespassing, Holly and Mel insist on leaving, but as they’re about to make their departure, they hear the voice of an unknown man (Larry Fessenden) in the house and realize they’ve been discovered. As they attempt to flee, Holly accidentally knocks the stranger down a flight of stairs and when Cali checks on him she announces that he’s already dead. In light of their break-in, they concoct a cover story before calling 911, so that they can claim that the intruder tried to rape one of them and that his killing was in self-defense.

After abundant exposure to CSI and similar forensic-leaning procedurals, they go about planting the man’s DNA evidence on Holly, who draws the short straw. A sudden, chilling revelation significantly complicates their cover-up attempt however, so Cali begins to develop an alternate plan, but her friends resist further plotting, forcing them all to re-evaluate how they’ll deal with the increasingly risky situation, along with their lengthening list of crimes.

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The premise of writer-directors Berk and Olsen’s first feature initially stretches credibility only slightly, with a scenario that could potentially transpire in a wide variety of communities. However, the storyline grows increasingly implausible as drama, but neglects to introduce enough suspense to adequately raise the stakes, until a final violent twist helps fulfill expectations.

The small ensemble cast puts some meat on the filmmakers’ bare-bones script with an increasingly unstable best-friends dynamic that gradually reveals cracks as the trio’s dilemma intensifies. Turshen provides the linchpin as Cali, an unreliable instigator whose crisis-management skills verge on the extreme. Rogers transforms Holly from meek, reactionary wallflower to take-charge aggressor, dragging Molina’s noncommittal Mel along in the process. Creepy as ever, Fessenden’s role would have been more integral if not for spending much of the movie lying on his back, mortally injured.

Olsen and Berk’s directorial debut sticks to the fundamentals, but minimizing the film’s complexity offers too few surprises. As a result, DP Matt Mitchell and editor Bryan Gaynor aren’t tasked with providing sufficient stylistic variation, resulting in a production that’s lacking distinctiveness.

Production companies: Last Pictures, Smiley Ball Films

Cast: Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen, Lauren Molina, Adam Cornelius, Larry Fessenden

Directors-writers: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen

Producers: Chadd Harbold, Bryan Gaynor, Michael W. Gray

Executive producers: Adam Cornelius, Josh Axler, Zach Lasry

Director of photography: Matt Mitchell

Production designer: Annie Simeone

Costume designer: Megan Evans

Editor: Bryan Gaynor

Music: Luke Allen

No rating, 75 minutes 


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