For professional assassin Wilkes (Tom Bateman), Halloween is the best night to lug around a corpse, in this case that of a famous celebrity, though we never learn which one or what they’re famous for, just that they’re rich enough to import large blocks of live maggot-infused cheese from Italy. Bateman gamely eats some in close-up to get us off on the right gross-out foot, and from there, Wilkes is off to dump the cellophane-wrapped body at a designated drop spot. Unluckily for him, all the cars on the block have been randomly vandalized, including his. And as manly as the dude seems to be, clearly changing a tire isn’t in his wheelhouse, and calling Triple A isn’t an option. But fortunately for him, everyone who passes by assumes the body is a prop and the blood on his face is fake.
Fortunately, that is, until a group of annoying party people (among them David Hull’s Alan and Aurora Perrineau’s Dorothy) decide they like his “costume” so much that they just have to bring him to their party so they can make an epic entrance to compete with said party’s host, a horror-effects artist named Jack (Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s Ray Santiago). Wilkes has less patience for fools than most, but in exchange for the promise of a ride to where he needs to go, he agrees to come to the shindig and enjoy one complimentary drink. Too bad these crazy kids can’t leave well enough alone, nor can their party-boy host. Wilkes is distracted briefly by a pretty lady named Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse) who turns his head and hangs on his every nihilistic word, but even she can’t keep his impatience in check forever. Though she’s happy to help him re-obtain his bounty when Alan, Dorothy, and Jack foolishly make off with the victim.
Expanding upon his own short film of the same name, director Paul Davis keeps the dialogue snappy and the references tasteful (there’s a really nice little nod to Phantasm, for example, that only horror fans will notice), while upending a number of cliches with casting. Santiago isn’t necessarily who you’d first think Hollywood might cast as a trust-fund supernerd cokehead with no chill, while Maggie, who in anyone else’s hand might be a cliched Wednesday Addams wannabe goth, is instead the kind of feminist who dresses up as Marie Antoinette to make a point about male scapegoating. Wilkes himself is like a younger Jason Statham if he’d been cast as another notable Bateman, in American Psycho.
Perhaps best of all from a horror standpoint, every character in this movie can die at any time. Which is even more impressive given that this is more comedy than terror and you really start to feel safe for everyone at a certain point, until…you’re not. For a solid stretch somewhere in the middle, it feels a bit like a modern take on Abbott and Costello meeting whatever Universal monster was available on a given day, except that Abbott and Costello never wound up getting their throats torn out by the Wolfman. And given that it’s been a pattern in many Blumhouse movies to hold back on visual effects and key plot revelations until the climax, it’s a tasty surprise that The Body consistently delivers throughout. Wilkes mentions at the very beginning of the tale that to properly enjoy the grotesque dairy product in front of him, one must eat both the maggots and the cheese simultaneously. Metaphorically, we’ve been given precisely that blend, and indeed, it was the path to enjoyment. Here’s hoping Into the Dark keeps it up, on the first Friday of every month for the next 12 months.
4 out of 5.
Images: Hulu/Richard Foreman