Monday, August 24, 2020

A Walk In the Woods

I've ranted and raged at the gross misogyny and worse, plain boredom that seems to run deep through the V/H/S series, anthologies that have come to epitomize everything awful about straight white dude bro horror in the 21st century. The fact that three movies that featured fifteen segments couldn't give a single slot to a female filmmaker says quite a bit, especially when you realize Roxanne Benjamin was sitting there the entire time as a producer.

Now obviously, I know very little about the production background of V/H/S, and Benjamin's personal trajectory from producing to directing. But from where I sit, I see three (fairly crappy) movies that hired a total of fifteen male directors. Benjamin would go on to make her directorial debut in Southbound and follow it up with XX, an anthology founded on the idea of female directors because, you know, we had FIFTEEN stupid V/H/S segments that couldn't bother to include one.

Anyhoo, my point is pretty simple: I'm tired of bro horror, and fully ready to celebrate the women who are building their own dynasty. Thusly do we dive into Benjamin's first full-length movie.

Quick Plot: Wendy is a less-than-stellar part-time park ranger at Brighton Rock who valiantly offers to take her more experienced pal's shift to prove herself (and allow her friend to flirt with a hot guy). Most of the day's tasks involve hiking around and hanging up safety posters, but when she loses her map, Wendy's afternoon becomes considerably more complicated.

It would be bad enough to be lost and losing daylight, but the discovery of a dead body, creepy stranger, and some mysteriously deep claw marks put poor Wendy on edge. 

Wendy is played by Karina Fontes, a newcomer who had a small role in Benjamin's Southbound segment. The casting is crucial, since Wendy is the only character onscreen for a good chunk of the movie. So much of the movie's energy depends on Fontes, who brings such a fun likability and believable dumb innocence to the part.

Make no mistake: Wendy is no Ellen Ripley. She's a little flaky and far from a survivalist, someone who gets completely lost after trying to make such a point out of her abilities to read a map. But you know what? That's kind of refreshing. Yes, it's incredibly empowering to watch Sharni Vinson school ill-prepared killers in You're Next, but let's face it: many of us aren't actually equipped to survive a horror movie. Wendy is a perfectly average young woman, and seeing her dig deep inside herself to make it through 90 minutes of horror is in itself something to be proud of.

Benjamin wrote and directed Body At Brighton Rock, and it makes me thrilled for her next project: a remake of the beloved Night of the Comet. There's a very similar tone in this film, one that's not afraid to be simultaneously silly and filled with danger. It's a tricky balance, but one that ultimately makes for a darn enjoyable watch.

High Points
The tone is key, but it depends so much on Fontes's performance that I'd be remiss to not put her in this slot

Low Points
I could have used one or two less "it's just a dream!" reveals, but at the same time, this is a movie about a woman being lost on an isolated mountain. I think I'd have a few nightmares too?

Lessons Learned
Maybe turn off the noise cancellation feature on your earbuds when hiking alone?

Nothing starts a fire better than anti-fire propaganda!

Why do we need female filmmakers, you might ask? Because often they're the only ones who understand the value of a hairtie on a hot day

Body At Brighton Rock isn't terrifying or ever hilarious, but it's just a genuinely good time all around. You'll chuckle a little, maybe jump a tad, and ultimately, walk away with a very satisfying and fresh-feeling flick. Streaming on Hulu and worth your eyeballs. 


  1. I had not heard about this one before but I will have to check it out. I too enjoyed Benjamin's segment in Southbound and thought it showed a lot of promise. Your stated reason for needing more female directors is downright insightful; it has always bugged me that female protagonists with long hair never tie it back so they can get down to business.

    1. Seriously, I can't tell how much more I will like a movie if its female protagonist makes the effort to tie her hair back! The Running Man FOREVER!

      And yes, definitely give this one a go! I'm really digging Benjamin's genre style, and it makes me SUPER pumped for her Night of the Comet!

  2. I'm not gonna defend the dude-bro-ness of the V/H/S films because they are indeed pretty shitty. The only segment I actually liked was Gareth Evans' Safe Haven from V/H/S 2 because I love cult-related horror and that one seriously creeped me out.
    The absence of female directors was indeed a sore spot. That's why the idea of XX sounded quite promising. I'm sorry but unfortunately it wasn't very good though. The segments ranged from lame to pretty awful and that's a bummer because there have been quite a few really good horror/genre films directed by women over the last couple years:
    Jennifer Kent's Babadook (even though it didn't fully live up to the hype for me it was impressive...I mean, Essie Davis!!!)
    Sophia Takal's Black Christmas (better than it had any right to be)
    Karyn Kusama's The Invitation
    Jenn Wexler's The Ranger (nothing extraordinary but a nice bloody slasher)
    Ana Asensio's Most Beautiful Island
    Leigh Janiak's Honeymoon
    and my personal favourite:
    the awesome Revenge by Coralie Fargeat...damn, that movie kicks ass

    I think the problem is that the target audience for horror is still the dude bro crowd. They don't want emotions and feelings in their horror (because that is what they think female director's would do). They are not that far off though because the female approach to horror is often more intimate and emotional but it's better for it. I prefer to actually care about the main characters of a movie. Makes the scares much more effective. That doesn't mean that female directors can't have a bloody good time with their movies...*cough* Revenge *cough*

    Thanks for bringing this movie to my attention. I will check it out.
    Also pretty curious about Nia DaCosta's Candyman. The trailer looked great.

    1. I can't remember the last time I was this excited for a movie than Nia's Candyman!

      And yes, I think every director has their own way, but in GENERAL, this is a more specific, character-based aspect that you find in a lot of female-helmed films. In an odd way, it's almost why Kathryn Bigelow has had so much success: she has a much more testosterone-heavy approach.

      I liked XX more than you, but that's fine! It seems like the industry is finally acting on being called out for its closed door policy, so it's an exciting time to be a movie fan!

  3. Just seen: Relic by Natalie Erika James. Beautiful, moving and ultimately very sad horror drama with terrific leading performances by Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin. While it's pretty obvious about it's message/subject it's an important one. Pretty creepy too. Also looks fantastic. Looking forward to what James does next.