Slamdance 2015: Body
Idiot Plot: Any plot containing problems that would be solved instantly if all of the characters were not idiots. (From rogerebert.com)
Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, the writing/directing team behind Body, must have had the Idiot Plot in mind when they made this film. Body starts out innocently enough; friends Holly (Helen Rogers), Mel (Lauren Molina) and Cali (Alexandra Turshen) spend Christmas together at Mel’s parents, bored out of their minds. Cali tells her friends that her rich uncle happens to be away for the holidays, and comes up with the bright idea of driving over to party in his giant, empty mansion. They head off to the house, but after partying for a few hours Holly and Mel discover the house actually isn’t owned by anyone related to Cali (it actually belongs to a rich family Cali used to babysit for). Suddenly the groundskeeper (Larry Fessenden) shows up, and when he tries to stop them from escaping he breaks his neck falling down a flight of stairs.
It’s an interesting set-up, and Berk/Olsen handle the escalation from girls’ night out to manslaughter well. But then the film turns to the question of how its characters will get themselves out of this situation, and things take a sharp nosedive. Cali devises an elaborate, offensively stupid cover-up, and Holly & Mel simply go along with it. It’s obvious that Berk/Olsen want viewers to be shocked by the levels of depravity their characters go to (here’s a hint: if you found Gone Girl offensive in its portrayal of Amy Dunne, your head will fucking explode watching this). None of it really shocks or offends, though. Plenty of time gets spent on establishing the chemistry between the three friends, but as individuals they’re developed through broad strokes. It’s hard to have any reaction to these characters stomping all over morals when they barely register as people. It’s also difficult to believe in a single ounce of this film when the premise is so infuriatingly idiotic.
Granted, it’s not unreasonable for people to act stupidly in extreme situations, but in order to believe what happens in Body you have to assume these three friends never graduated preschool. The asinine situation only makes Berk and Olsen’s motivations transparent. This is a film about shock for shock’s sake. Its only priority is putting something on-screen that will piss people off (or impress die-hard genre fans into giving emphatic responses of “Sick, bro!”). It’s one of those films where its blatant attempts at being egregious wind up making it heinous for all the wrong reasons. The only offensive thing about Body is that it seriously expects people to fall for this shit.