Written by: #BrandonKeenan
Brandon Keenan and Nick LaMantia’s feature-length horror, Body Farm, is a film which regularly slips in and out of the “Video Nasties” sub-genre. With obvious influences from movies such as Hostel, you might be expecting full-on toe-curling, skin-shredding violence. While there are some graphic scenes of gore, the film never lingers too much as to make its viewer uncomfortable. But it’s this play-it-safe approach that ultimately causes the movie’s biggest singular problem: lack of originality.
Keenan and LaMantia waste no time in introducing us to our first victim, Justyne (Genevieve Weiss), just as she’s having internal organs removed by a figure so sinister, you’d be forgiven for expecting cloven hooves and a pitchfork. A videographer in her uncle Mark’s (Brian Stowell) film company, Justyne was sent ahead to scope a possible story at a body farm where human decomposition is researched. While her fate comes as no surprise to us, her colleagues, particularly her boyfriend Erik (Brandon Keenan), are understandably concerned by her sudden disappearance. Concerns that are only heightened when a USB stick with disturbing footage and a mysterious text beckoning the crew to the research facility are received.
It’s a by-the-numbers, lambs-to-the-slaughter kind of film. We know what’s going on, we know what to expect, we just don’t know why. Body Farm plays it safe throughout much of its runtime. Relying on (and falling into) many tried-and-tested horror-movie tropes, rather than making any meaningful attempt to carve out a unique place for itself. Far more effort has been spent on developing the movie’s twist ending – which, to be fair, is very well thought-out – and how certain pre-orchestrated events during the film have led up to that point. And while it does work quite well (the twist in particular), it still leaves the film feeling a little stale in places, as we’re escorted from A to B through the customary horror-film experience.
Where the narrative writing is, generally, pretty good, the characters and dialogue feel underdeveloped and uninspired. Not bad, by any means. But they’re unremarkable, and the performances suffer a little as a consequence - with the villains, in particular, being overly dramatic and laughably obvious. It’s a similar story with the film’s sound design. Mikey Rukus’ score is pretty spot on and has plenty of atmospheric horror inflexions. But, at times, there are some really oddly utilised horror-movie music clichés. Weirdly placed jump scare crescendos are the main culprit here and dampen the effectiveness of the soundtrack overall. However, everything visual about the film is really, really good. The sets are well made and believable, Steven Croner’s cinematography dazzles in its dismality, the direction is superb, and the special effects, while not wholly realistic, are suitably grim.
There are a few areas in which Body Farm doesn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped. I wish it had been more daring, and I wish the different elements worked together a little more coherently. However, there’s an enjoyable and well-made film to be found here, one made on an incredibly small budget of just $35,000. Both Keenan and LaMantia have proven, with this, their first feature film, that they’re directors to watch. And, with a bit more courage to separate itself from the crowd and focus a little more on character development, we could be looking at two very talented horror writer/directors.