Reviews | Written by Andrew Marshall 25/07/2019

BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK [Edinburgh Film Festival]


After swapping tasks so her friend can spend all day flirting with an attractive colleague, trainee park ranger Wendy heads out on a remote mountain trail she is too inexperienced to deal with. After realising she has become lost, she encounters a corpse and must stay where she is until help arrives, which won’t be until well after nightfall.

Despite the countless horror movies that take place in remote wilderness locations wherein are hidden the murderous crimes of numerous maniacs soaking the earth with the blood of their victims, Body at Brighton Rock is careful to avoid playing into the tropes of such films. It remains largely a psychological affair, the natural world that Wendy wants to be a part of conspiring against her to create a symphony of terror. With a dead body laying nearby, her perception of her surroundings becomes warped into a nightmarish parody of nature, the perfectly innocuous sounds and movements of the forest around her becoming transformed into gnawing scratches, ominous noises on the wind and echoes unidentifiable in their source, while every movement and shadow glimpsed out of the corner of her eye threatens to reveal unforeseen danger as her sanity is gradually clawed away at. It also doesn’t take until after the sun has gone down for the encroaching forces of nature to begin their mental assault; even when the sun is still bright in the sky, the eeriness of Wendy’s situation begins chipping away at her perspective of reality.

The closest the film comes to more familiar horror movies is the ambiguity over whether or not the mysterious person Wendy has been intermittently glimpsing is real and means her harm. The bloodied and mauled features of the corpse itself act as a constant reminder of the unforgiving power of nature, and that there are deadly dangers hidden within its barely touched beauty that could emerge from the trees at any moment. As night descends and Wendy’s isolation becomes ever more overpowering, her ability to tell rational reality from fevered imagination becomes ever diminished.

This would all be less affecting if you didn’t care about Wendy, but her initial outgoing enthusiasm and friendly personality makes you quickly warm to her. She is further sympathised by her clear enthusiasm for her job, and her staunch determination to undertake everything expected of her employment is admirable, despite remaining blithely oblivious to the fact she is woefully lacking in the skill to do it properly. Even though the situation she finds herself in is more or less entirely her own fault, you’re still able to feel for her since she hasn’t done anything to in any way deserve it.

Every aspect of the film’s descent into psychological torment is played completely straight, but such is the extremity of the featured situations it wouldn’t take much shunting to tilt the film in an unintentionally funny direction. However, a perfectly-balanced tone manages to maintain the mounting fear while avoiding their occasionally ridiculous portrayal from deteriorating into farce.

Body at Brighton Rock is a insidiously sinister piece of psychological horror. Although eschewing traditional gore and terror and with very little actually happening throughout, it remains an enthralling crescendo of paranoia that drags in the viewer and grips them until the closing moments.