Socio-political horror is making its mark on the genre, especially since Jordan Peele released his instant classic, Get Out. Yes, there are examples of this from years before, but now it’s been proven to Hollywood that these films are profitable and keeps people talking. These subjects can be quite the touchy topic as certain themes are easy to exploit or even be insensitive. Timing is another issue, but that can’t be helped as world events change day to day. BODY CAM, from director Malik Vitthal, is very much one of those movies that can easily tread the lines of distaste. Fortunately, due to great writing and a perfectly casted performance by Mary J. Blige, BODY CAM surpasses expectations and offers a supernatural take on current events.
Taking place after a racially motivated altercation, officer Renee (Blige) is back at work with the support of her fellow police officers. She now has a young partner at her side (Nat Wolff, Death Note) who is new to the job and helps speak for the audience when it comes to arguing the politics of playing by the rules. The media is running rampant as the police find themselves at the center of attention again when they are responsible for the shooting of an unarmed black youth.
This obviously puts Renee in a tough spot and she is even verbally attacked in a black neighborhood when she tries to assist a toddler while in uniform. This eventually leads her to a crime scene where police cam footage reveals an officer succumbing to something supernatural. More officers end up meeting fatal ends, with body cam footage only viewable through Renee’s eyes. It’s almost a question of if she might be experiencing delusions due to a past tragedy; however, these incidents all have a connection going back to before the aforementioned victim of police brutality.
BODY CAM is one of those genre offerings where it actually would work better as a straight forward drama without the horror elements. Director Malik Vitthal knows what he’s doing though, offering some effective jump scares. There’s a flow to BODY CAM that allows the emotional elements to sink in enough for the audience to emphasize for our heroes and victims. While some of the horror sequences feel too familiar (there’s a dark hallway scene that has Sinister 2 written all over it), its heart is in the right place. By the end of the film, it’s clear that this story is about justice being served and those who are caught in the middle.
With all that being said, I’m curious as to how the response will be to BODY CAM due to the real-life events that have occurred in the last few days focused around police brutality. While the subject matter is not something new, it doesn’t take away from the all too real notion of not just power dynamics but racial division. The media perception of events often leads to social media wars where fingers are pointed and there’s not much of a winning argument. It’s questionable where the solution lies, but BODY CAM offers a fictional take on horrible events that provides a somewhat light at the end of the tunnel. It helps with Blige as the lead due to building her career shining a light on the not so privileged and those that experienced rough upbringings. Her background feels all the more appropriate for this movie and may bring along another demographic that might not have picked up BODY CAM before.
BODY CAM is available for purchase on digital and is now available for rent On Demand. It will be available on DVD July 14.