HomeInterviewsRoxanne Benjamin Discusses Carving a New Survival Story with 'Body at Brighton...

Roxanne Benjamin Discusses Carving a New Survival Story with ‘Body at Brighton Rock’

Body at Brighton Rock

Roxanne Benjamin has created quite the name for herself as a genre producer. Speaking with those in the horror film circles before the SXSW premiere of Body at Brighton Rock, I was met with nothing but high praise and hopes for her directorial debut. Working as a lead producer for the found footage V/H/S series, and directing segments of other anthology films like XX and Southbound comes with great support.

But with Body at Brighton Rock, she not only steps behind the camera (along with sole writing credit) for her first full feature but also departs from the signature dread and gory elements that her producing credits are associated with.

Roxanne Benjamin
Photo Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

At least, that’s the world we enter as the camera descends down on Brighton Rock as I discussed with her following the premiere at SXSW. There are twists and turns on screen to match the titular jagged rock but none are more surprising than us discussing the influence Caddyshack and Benji.

“It’s weird because it is very much like Caddyshack in the opening. To me, it’s a mix of [that] and Benji. Because Benji also has a long tracking opening, going through a bunch of things and you’re learning about the characters as they’re running through the area,” she brought up discussing the title sequence.

For those familiar with her producing credits, it’s a jarring tonal shift, and it sets up a sense of warmth and comfort as the bright title card comes on screen. It’s a reflection of her wide-eyed protagonist Wendy, a fresh park attendant, to set up what feels like a great young adult adaptation.

“I liked the idea of taking something that was light and fun,” Benjamin added. “And then taking it farther and farther into something that was falling apart and wasn’t that.

At ever-growing odds with her superior, Wendy rises against authority in pursuit of freedom from the mundanity of work and adult life, defying her work orders to take on her preferred assignment posting flyers on the park’s trails. For a director that has made a career on horrifying subjects, there’s decidedly a lack of horror beyond a single jump scare before she reaches Brighton Rock.

Then, Wendy finds *insert my internal John Mulaney narration* a dead body.

Everything changes after that, and Benjamin’s knowledge of film and its tropes speaks volumes.

As a rookie ranger, Wendy is understandably flustered and frustrated with her discovery. She calls out for help on her phone. The reception is spotty at best. She calls out on her radio that she doesn’t know how to work properly without instructions. Her naivety shows, reflecting not only her inexperience but world view crashing down.

Body at Brighton Rock
Photo Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Instead of offering Wendy — and the audience for that matter — support, Benjamin strips the story down to its very basic means of survival. There’s a disoriented Wendy, a dead body, and the forest getting colder and darker with each passing minute. Three things, nothing more to advance the plot, and nowhere for Wendy to go until morning as rescue is on the way at daybreak.

“It’s funny because I watched a lot of movies that were survival thrillers while I was going into production, stuff where it was one character but they almost all have a cheat out of it that works for that movie,” she said. “That didn’t work for me because I wanted to stay with her.”

Benjamin mentioned how films like 127 Hours and Castaway have plot devices that push their stories in different directions, away from their lone survivors. James Franco has a camera that’s used to tell flashbacks. Tom Hanks creates a character out of a volleyball. Brighton Rock pushes all its focus on Wendy.

Making that an even bolder decision, Wendy is played by rookie actress Karina Fontes. She had been in a number of short films and a segment of Southbound, but as a professional model by day, this was her first feature-length role

“She came in and read one of the roles for me for something else I was doing and she was so vulnerable and so raw and so good at,” Benjamin remembered. “I was angry, like, ‘You’ve been an actor this whole time!’”

Photo Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Convincing financiers to cast Fontes as a first-time actress for a role that Benjamin said “is the movie” took little convincing once they saw her audition tape. From the third act on, the only characters are Wendy and the forest in what should be described as a loud, silent movie to dive into Wendy’s coming of age arc.

“All of the [sound] design and all of the score is what she’s going through subjectively what’s going through her head,” Benjamin talked about the Western influence of the film’s sound. “And then [it’s] very objective, far away like almost the forest’s view of her who does not give a shit about what you’re going through.

“The world doesn’t care what you have to go through anyway, so it was mixing those two things with letting the sound and score serve as another window into her experience, and almost services as the dialogue.”

Every move Benjamin makes in the story is evidence of a smart director that like she said, doesn’t feel like a directorial debut. Pushing against the tropes of such a crowded genre of survival stories lifts Brighton Rock to an unexpected level and shows great promise for whatever story she dives into next.

Body at Brighton Rock plays in select theaters and on VOD on Friday April 26.


Most Recent

Stay Connected