The thing about lying is they have the habit of snowballing around the teller. What starts as a singular untruth compounds upon itself until it becomes impossible to go back to square one and start over with a clean slate. Sooner or later, the lying parties begin to accept the lie as real, and even after the falsehood has been exposed, they refuse to cede ground, holding on to the lie as gospel truth. If one were to untangle and examine the situation, they could find a handful of moments where telling the truth would have averted disaster. This is the thematic goldmine the writing and directing team of Dan Berk and Robert Olson explore in their taut thriller Body.
Three college age girlfriends Cali (Alexandra Turshin), Holly (Helen Rogers from V/H/S) and Mel (Lauren Molina) are spending their Friday night playing board games, smoking weed and chugging vodka and the latter’s parent’s house the night before Christmas Eve. Bored and feeling like a middle age housewife, Cali suggests they head out to her rich uncle’s house since he is away for the holidays. This is the first lie which soon snowballs out of control. When Holly and Mel learn that there’s no rich uncle, and in actuality the trio is trespassing at the home of a family Cali used to babysit for. In the middle of Holly and Mel’s freakout, the property caretaker (Larry Fessenden) decides to pop in to investigate why all the lights of the deserted house are on. A struggle ensues, and the caretaker hurtles down a flight of steps, crashing to the bottom with a broken neck and not breathing.
Berk and Olson do an admirable job building the trio of characters, allowing the audience to buy in to their individual reactions to the situation. Cali is the self preservationist and relative moralist of the group. From the outset Cali tries to spin the situation to the girls’ advantage, creating a narrative about sexual assault out of thin air while justifying it by saying it will be their word against a dead man’s when the police are called in. Turshin’s performance makes it easy to envision her character as a future political spin doctor if she manages to make it out of this predicament. Holly acts as the moralist of the group, but only to a point. While she lobbies for calling the police and telling the truth with the hopes they will go easy on the group, she lacks conviction and finds herself swayed by Cali’s arguments. Mel acts as the pragmatist of the group. She examines the scenario in the moment and calculates the course of action that benefits her the most. She winds up the character most of us, in moments of true self-reflection, would identify most with.
BODY also earns points for escalating the tension in small steps. Films like Very Bad Things have minded similar material before, but Body surpasses that film by never going too far off kilter. At 68 minutes of run time before credits, Body strips all fat off the story. Berk and Olson offer a handful of points along the way where the women could have stepped back and made things easier for everyone before a clear point of no return is reached. A palpable sense of tension stems from waiting to see how each choice the friends make will play out while also waiting for the next shoe to drop. Yet Body never devolves into ridiculous extremes, and it plays out in a very smart and satisfying way.
After playing UK’s FrightFest this past August, Body is currently making its way through the festival circuit before its home media release. It’s well worth checking out. Body offers up the opportunity to have one of those “What would you do?” hypothetical conversations with whoever you’re watching it with.