Jason Blumhouse and his eponymous production company have built a successful film empire on the backs of low-cost genre films that typically turn a profit. He’s not quite Roger Corman-like in his penny pinching, but he’s frugal enough that even a handful of hits are enough to justify entire slates of upcoming releases. With cinema conquered he’s turning his eye towards television, and more specifically towards streaming. Hulu has just premiered episode one of a new monthly horror series called Into the Dark. Each month will see a new feature-length installment themed to a holiday, and fittingly, the premiere is the Halloween-set The Body.
Wilkes (Tom Bateman) is as efficient a hitman as you’re likely to find in the continental United States, but his latest assignment — a simple murder and disposal on Halloween night — goes horribly awry when everything that can go wrong does. Pranksters vandalize his car which draws police attention, and his effort to move the tightly wrapped body by hand is interrupted by revelers impressed with his “costume.” They invite him and his prop — the very real body — to a nearby costume party promising him a ride if he just hangs out for a drink or two, and he accepts despite his clear distaste for the human species. He’d be entertained if he wasn’t so annoyed at their antics and behaviors, but one woman catches his attention. Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse) is drawn to his style, demeanor, and nihilistic attitude towards people, and once his secret is discovered — his new “friends” realize the body is real — she decides to side with the killer.
There’s a fun conceit to director/co-writer Paul Davis‘ The Body (based on his own short co-written by Paul Fischer) as suspense and laughs are easily generated from trying to transport a dead body in public, but it’s stretched pretty thin at feature length as it constantly risks losing steam. There aren’t enough detours and side characters — After Hours this isn’t — leaving us instead with Wilkes, Maggie, and a trio of goofballs to hold our attention and interest with varying results.
Wilkes is a cool killer with a monotone affectation, and when he’s not commenting flatly on man’s insignificance he’s delivering droll dollops of sarcasm. It’s possible he’s modeling himself on American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman, but if so it’s only on that sociopath’s calmer moments as Bateman (the actor, not the character) never really takes the opportunity to explode. Even as events frustrate him he remains calm and at most annoyed. Maggie’s similarly level, and while part of that’s designed for humorous effect in how quickly she takes in Wilkes’ proclivities it again leaves her personality wanting. The trio fares far better as Aurora Perrineau, David Hull, and Ray Santiago take possession of the body and find the film’s energy and laughs. They’re supporting players here, but they’re also the highlight as watching their situation spiral brings more entertainment than Wilkes’ predicament.
The genre trappings and Blumhouse name might suggest something darker, but the film is played heavily for laughs to mixed effect. Some beats land, such as a throwaway bit involving a police officer referring to the friends as drunks and a hysterical woman, while others feel far too obvious and repetitive. The humor sometimes undercuts the violence too with only one or two notable exceptions managing to deliver a jolt. Of course, even with the lack of serious violence there’s plenty of bloodletting and gore showing the results to still be plenty deadly and painful.
The Body is an undeniably slight diversion, but fun and forgettable movies have their place. For this month at least, that place is on Hulu.