Does anybody watch movies anymore?
More proper: does anybody in movies watch movies anymore? Or those true-crime shows that are all the rage these days?
Little grates on my nerves more than movies that go out of their way to make a situation complicated when, in reality, the answer is cut and dry. This is what the late Roger Ebert referred to as the “Idiot Plot,” wherein the conflict would be solved in 5 minutes if the characters weren’t required to act like idiots.
I mean, didn’t the girls in Body see what happened to the characters in Shallow Grave?
1972’s Deliverance is the granddaddy of films that deal with the fallout of murder in a realistic, thoughtful, and gut-wrenching manner. When Lewis (Burt Reynolds) asks his boating buddies (Jon Voight, Ronny Cox, and Ned Beatty) what should be done with the body of a slain mountain man, they resort to a democratic show of hands; but the moral weight of their decision hangs heavy throughout the remainder of the film.
In Body, that moral weight is nowhere to be found, and the resulting film – a suspense-thriller with delusions of Hitchcock – trips over itself setting up contrived plot twists and increasingly convoluted ways to extend the already fleeting run time (75 minutes with credits).
The film starts with a joke about the misspelling of the word “Satan” and never really recovers. It’s December 23, and three girls of varying obnoxiousness – rich bitch Cali (Alexandra Turshen); frumpy Mel (Lauren Molina); passive doormat Holly (Helen Rogers) – decide to ditch the comforts of Mel’s parents’ home for a night of adventure that consists of a B&E at Cali’s uncle’s house. All is a smashing good time until an unexpected guest shows up; in a panic, the girls knock the intruder down the stairs, suspecting the worst. The remainder of the film consists of their increasingly irrational attempts to rationalize the situation.
Of course, the obvious choice – turning themselves in – is broached, and promptly rejected. They can’t go to jail, because A) Cali’s rich; B) Mel’s in law school (and racked with Woody Allen levels of Jewish guilt); and C) Holly’s dad is a local politician. One can see the writing-directing team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen aiming for a “feminist” slant, but the film is more about elaborate methods of presenting the gender in the most distasteful light possible. Whether it was intentional or not, the misogynist message conveyed by the conclusion is, “those kooky women can’t handle themselves in a stressful situation without getting into a catfight; best leave the complicated decisions to the men.”
What else can explain the far-reaching, overtly elaborate “crime” the girls set up to make it look like the murder was justified? In staging a fake rape, the camera dwells on every demeaning detail. And what of the sadistic pull Cali has over her far-too-passive friends, to the point where nobody is sympathetic? For fuck’s sake: there’s even a completely pointless shot of Holly sitting on a toilet, pants around her ankles.
As far as the plot goes, House on Sorority Row did it first, and with a more endearing bizarro spirit.
As far as the humiliation goes, it’s like a girl-on-girl riff on Compliance, but without the claustrophobic tension.
On the plus side, serial supporting actor and Glass Eye Pix head honcho Larry Fessenden gives the film’s best, most empathetic performance. And the cinematography (by Matt Mitchell) and production design (by Annie Simeone) is brilliant – all but begging for a better script to justify its lavish beauty.
Jonny Numb’s IMDb Rating: 2 out of 10