Alfred Hitchcock once said “It is very difficult, very painful, and it takes a very, very long time to kill a man.” According to the trailer for Blood Simple, anyway. Regardless, it’s an appropriate quote to have in mind going into Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s feature debut Body. Set on Christmas Eve, this compact thriller details the emotional fallout an accidental murder has on three friends who were only looking for a good time. This is why everyone should be with their families on Christmas Eve, you guys. So no one gets killed.
Our main protagonist here is Holly (played by Helen Rogers of V/H/S and The Sacrament), who’s spending Christmas Eve with her old friends Mel (Lauren Molina) and Cali (Alexandra Turshen). When smoking weed and playing Scrabble at Mel’s house gets boring, they decide to go party in a vacant mansion belonging to Cali’s uncle. Vacant is what she tells them anyway.
Quickly into their night of lavish debauchery, a man (Larry Fessenden!) enters the house. Alarmed, one of the girls accidentally knocks him down a long flight of stairs. Believing him to be dead, the three girls argue over what to do – call the cops? Say it was self-defense? Just get the hell outta there? But the most important questions of all, is the guy really dead?
How each girl reacts displays their true personality. Before the killing, we get to see them riff off of each other and clown around. Early on it’s easy to see that Cali is the wild card, the one who wants to have fun by any means necessary. Mel’s the reserved one and Holly is the most level-headed of the three. The girls play off of each other very well, which establishes a nice shared history without having to dish it to us with bland exposition. Too many horror flicks fail to do so, handing us a group of kids who don’t seem like they would hang out together if they had guns pointed at their heads. So having this camaraderie between the three girls shine early on in the film adds just enough weight to make the stakes feel high later on.
Following the killing, the girls’ relationship begins to unravel as they’re forced to deal with one disturbingly resilient corpse. A series of bitter squabbles brings to light how they really feel about each other and hot damn does the venom fly. The tension builds up nicely, with each macabre scheme and argument chipping away at the girls’ bond. When there’s nothing left to hold them together, Body climaxes in a beautiful moment of rage, resentment, and sweet, sweet comeuppance.
There are some hiccups along the way. Body is only 75 minutes, but it takes a long time to really get cranking. The partying montages could’ve been trimmed a bit to make way for more tense one later on. I don’t mind watching Helen Rogers dance in slow motion, don’t get me wrong. I just wish the thrills in this thriller arrived earlier. During the Scrabble and weed session at Mel’s house, some dialogue comes off really awkward. I’m not sure if that’s intentional, since the girls may have not seen in each other for a while, but it screws with the flow of things.
Once Body starts to build momentum, however, it remains tightly wound and as sharp as a Fessenden’s hairstyle. Morbidly entertaining and emotionally honest, Body is one helluva debut for Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Keep their asses on your radar.
Body had its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival on Jan. 25.