PLOT: On a frosty Christmas Eve night, a trio of young gal pals head to an emptily secluded mansion in order to get their party on. But when a stranger unexpectedly shows up, a screwy tragedy of errors culminates in more than mere murder.
REVIEW: Little to nil had I heard about BODY before laying eyes on it, yet with its generically nondescript title, of no surprise was it to learn it's one of two movies to be released in 2015 with the same name. Originality, it would seem right from conception, is of very little consequence here. That said, what amounts to a glorified short film - all of 65 minutes pre-credits - is assuredly shot and credibly acted for the size and stature it must adhere to. It also has a pretty entertaining first half of said truncated runtime to keep you invested long enough to want to see how the action, however absurdly justified, is resolved. Alas, as you might expect from a jointly written and directed first feature by a pair of up and coming twenty-somethings - Dan Berk and Robert Olsen - this near dead on arrival BODY resembles more of an osteally malnourished carcass than a ripped and robust Adonis.
A game of household Scrabble opens the flick, the contestants of which include friends Cali (Alexandra Turshen), Mel (Lauren Molina) and Holly (Helen Rogers). The former doltishly misspells satin for Satan, which I suppose foreshadows how utterly gormless Cali will prove to be throughout. Duly noted. The trio of gals, bored at Holly's house hours before Christmas Eve, decide to torch a sizeable blunt and head out to Cali's uncle's for a few spirited festivities. Cali's uncle is apparently loaded, gone for the holidays with his empty lavish mansion only a few minutes away. Party time, right? Well, perhaps for a bit. That is, until it turns out the house isn't Cali's uncle's property at all, but rather that of a family she used to babysit for. Irate, the other girls want to split as soon as they hear this. One problem. The groundskeeper (Larry Fessenden) suddenly shows up, confronts the intruders, and just as he gets in close proximity, Holly panics and lunges the dude down a lengthy flight of stairs. Dude lays lifeless, appearing to have fatally snapped his neck. What a thankless role for Fessenden, who's reduced to a whispering paraplegic stuck to the floor for most of the runtime. He grunts, grumbles, forces a few syllables out, but aside from that, this isn't the memorably commanding role we've come to know and expect with Larry in a genre film.
So what do the gals do? So very worried about breaking and entering and leaving fingerprints (despite the fact they used a hidden key to enter the house), the gals concoct a story saying that Fessenden broke in and tried to rape Holly. As a strict defensive reflex, they attacked the attacker and he ended up falling to his own demise. That's what they plan to tell the cops. Problem number two. Dude ain't dead. He's merely crippled, paralyzed from the waist down. This sets in motion a logically absurd course of action which most definitely falls into the category of...the cover up ends up being far worse than the crime itself. The girls needless overcomplicate their lines of recourse, spiraling further into a web of criminality that not only makes no logical sense whatsoever, but ends up threatening each other's own lives. I realize these chicks are blitzed on the sticky, but damn they make some boneheaded plays.
Really, why are these girls so worried about leaving fingerprints in the house they snuck into? One only needs concern themselves with such if they have a criminal record...if matching prints are stored somewhere in a police database. Yet, no mention is made of criminal priors for any of the gals. Hell, they didn't even technically break in. They used a goddamn hidden spare key. Furthermore, the groundskeeper has no idea who the girls are, why they are there or what their names could be. It really seems the trio could have just left and no one would have been the wiser. But no, instead, a lame morality play ensues which pits the consciousness of Holly against Cali's self-interested lack thereof...with Mel stuck somewhere in the middle. I won't go into more plot detail, but suffice it to say, when old Fessenden awakes, things get even messier than the girl's ever anticipated.
Yet despite the asinine story and ludicrous character decisions - to my mind the film's most damning weaknesses - the movie isn't entirely unwatchable. Actually, due to more or less believable turns by the main actors (their mannerisms, not their decisions) and a competently framed night-shoot by DP Matt Mitchell (his first film as well) that well elicits a stygian frigidity, there's enough to keep you engaged for most of the duration. The three girls, even when bickering and bantering, have a natural onscreen rapport that goes a long way in keeping this kind of one-night, one-setting story involving. That said, on the whole this does feel like a short film laboriously stretched into a qualified feature. Or, if you'd like, an underdeveloped frame in desperate need of a more organically structured growth spurt. No matter how you dissect it, this is one slight BODY, one that neither has much of a statement to make nor a sturdy leg of terror to tread on. It's gauntly cadaverous in that way. Almost like it's a mere exercise in filmmaking that offers little more than to prove to the directors that they can actually do it. And hopefully, with a better script in the future, they can succeed. As it is, Berk and Olsen have wheeled in one lifeless, emaciated BODY.