The straight-to-DVD market is a blessing and a curse. It's empirical that far more movies are released now than back when low-budget productions would have to fight for regional distribution - now playing at Drive-Ins throughout SW Texas! - for instance. Then, if a movie fought its way up through the ranks it had earned credibility, if not critical acclaim. Now I find myself constantly apologizing for good movies released straight-to-DVD. Opining that such-and-such is a really good movie ... for straight-to-DVD, that is. So yeah, even though Body/Antibody is a low-budget, straight-to-DVD feature, it is really good - consistently entertaining, funny, sexy and convoluted - a fine way to keep your eyes propped open on a sleepy Friday night.
Kip's an agoraphobic neat freak. His six-room rent-controlled Manhattan apartment is little more than a slick, coldly stylish white padded cell, which he hasn't left in months. But damn it, a beguiling temptress moves in across the hall. She's merely something to fuel Kip's frustrated sexual fantasies until their lives begin to intertwine. Soon Kip is forced to unwind a bit, allowing for the possibility of a bit of unsanitary romance with new neighbor Celine, and the inevitability of brutal violence in the form of Celine's angry ex-boyfriend.
Somehow, Body/Antibody comes across as a budget Swiss watch. Even though the finish is a bit plain or obvious here and there, this movie simply works, ticking along precisely and artfully, with a trio of ready-for-the-main-stage performances and enough twists to make you really wonder if you'll end up where you're expecting too. By way of proof, I submit my wife, who watched the whole thing after sleepily saying she was going to go to bed halfway through.
It is an indie feature, and Kip's all-white apartment both fits his character and reminds the viewer of every other stark white New York apartment they've seen in hundreds of other low-budget made-in-Manhattan movies. You get over it after a few pictures get hung on the walls, but for a while those memories of movies past threaten your experience, as does some distracting looped dialog early on. Luckily these distracting reminders make way for plenty of tasty repartee, sexual tension, and all the other things comedic neo-noir thrives on. As such, the only other distraction herein is the engineered precision of the plot - something Syd Field would be proud of. Just watch your clock and tell me if major things don't happen reliably on the half-hour. Yet somehow, such attention to detail relaxes you even more. It's like knowing you're in the hands of a pro.
Speaking of which, Robert Gomes as Kip, Leslie Kendall as Celine, and especially Frank Deal as the unbalanced ex, Andy, really grab this movie and dash towards the winner's circle. Gomes, an unsettling hybrid of George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Eric Bana and Thomas Gibson sells his mania nicely early on as he screams, "No!" when Celine tries to sit on his couch. He makes Kip's disease a realistic mix of insanity and desperation, even as he transitions from sanitizing doorknobs to giving Celine a rim-job. Kendall herself is dangerously cute, while playing a coquettish naïf who may or may not have an agenda. Her performance is as finely tuned as everything else in the movie, which might have simply bubbled along happily if not for Deal as Andy, a serious and seriously unhinged lunatic who could give Ray Liotta (Something Wild) and Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) a run for their money.
Body/Antibody veers wildly around the dark comedy battlefield, at times resembling Cronenberg's Crash for germaphobes, or referencing John Dahl's work, before throwing in a totally charming Charleston dance scene. The simple set-up of an odd couple fighting sexual attraction makes for enough of a guaranteed good evening that when delightful stylistic touches appear - witness Kip's first glimpse of Celine, a camera move of such deft elision that you're not sure what you've seen - you pretty much know you've stumbled onto something special. Writer/director Kerry Douglas Dye and director Jordan Hoffman have captured a little straight-to-DVD lightning in a bottle.