Sometimes one gets the sense that a film’s inception began not so much as a story idea or a character, but as a single image in the creator’s mind from which the rest of the film would ultimately unfurl. For example, when Robert Rodriguez first conceived of the central figure of his Mariachi trilogy, he was struck by an image of a lone drifter carrying a guitar case full of guns. It’s an instantly evocative idea and the natural inclination of a storyteller (or even anyone who enjoys some people-watching) is to create a narrative around that image. And you certainly have to admit that as a lone image, the sight of a man, suited and blood-spattered, dragging a dead body through the crowded streets of London without causing even the faintest bit of alarm to passers-by is certainly one worth exploring.
Yes, this tale of a killer for hire and his bounty takes place on Halloween, signalled early on when the killer’s efforts at cleaning up the crime scene are interrupted by three adorable trick-or-treaters. As such, our man with the heavy encumbrance feels free to walk amongst the costumed revellers because he is, to them, just another reveller with a really well made costume. It’s a nice twist to the familiar sight that amongst all of the fake monsters staggering throughout the night, there is a real monster doing his work with impunity, and actually looking to be the most normal of them all.
Things take a turn when our man happens to bump into an old classmate, someone who recognises him but, like everyone else, assumes the load he’s dragging is nothing more than a costume prop and insists he come to a friend’s party. Initially hesitant, the man relents and says he will come along for one… and it’s here that things start to fall apart slightly.
After this point, though, The Body begins to revel a bit too much in its own darkly comic connotations and makes sacrifices it really shouldn’t. The man attends this party (again, his arrogance would proffer an explanation as to why), where everyone compliments him on his brilliant costume and proceeds to take a slew of selfies with the dead body. As superficially funny as this may be, there is always something of a constant nagging that everyone onscreen is actually really stupid. What logic there may have been at one point slides further and further into the background so as to allow for this joke or that image, and it all starts to feel flimsier and flimsier as a result.
As a technical exercise, The Body is actually on pretty solid ground. The single-take camera movements are slick and smooth; the effects, both digital and practical, are well done; the trading of horror and humour is (for the most part) done well; and there are the odd horror movie nods for those who like an occasional referential chuckle (I see you there, Herbert West). The central performance from Alfie Allen (he of Game of Thrones fame) is of a decent show, though it has to be said that he doesn’t quite mask the logical shortfalls in the writing, coming across as convincing if superficial.
There is potential in the central concept at The Body’s heart, and Davis paces the films well enough that it never outstays its welcome. However, it’s a shame that such potential is let down by logical deficits that stop it from being as fully satisfying as it could have been.
The Body is available on We Are Colony