Some people are already labeling A24’s latest bite at the Gen Z zeitgeist, slasher flick Bodies Bodies Bodies, as this generation’s Scream. Let’s dial it back a little bit, folks. Both films delight in their self-awareness, but while one is concerned with the legacy of horror movies and their impact on young people, Halina Reijn’s latest explores the toxicity of lifelong friends, corrupted by the impersonal nature of technology and social media. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a scathing, brutally funny and bloody riot, but it feels like something that is a sign of this moment in time rather than long-lasting.
To Reijn’s credit, she puts the energy and lusty passions of her film right out on front street. Opening with a deep, sloppy kiss shared between Bee (Oscar nominee Maria Bakalova) and Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), Bodies Bodies Bodies is refreshingly open about its stable of…well, let’s just say it, a bunch of horribly spoiled brats. And rich brats, at that. These two are headed to a weekend hurricane party at the lavish home of David (Pete Davidson), Sophie’s best friend in the world. Also on hand are David’s beauty queen girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), the competitive and somewhat out-of-place Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), chatty podcaster Alice (Rachel Sennott), and, strangely, her “boyfriend” the 40-ish Greg (Lee Pace) who may or may not have served in the military.
For a film that captures the talk-but-don’t-listen vibe of today’s youth, Bodies Bodies Bodies is great for what it doesn’t have to spell out. Instead, we pick up through conversation that Sophie and Bee are pretty new at this relationship, and Bee potentially new at love in general. It also becomes obvious that Sophie’s presence at the party has made things awkward. She’s an unexpected arrival, and not necessarily wanted to be there, even by her bestie David. The only thing lighting up the place more than glow sticks and cell phone light is the tension, which comes out in snarky asides and petty arguments that sound both like longtime friends and embittered enemies.
The mystery kicks off when Sophie suggests a game of “Bodies Bodies Bodies”, basically “Among Us” with actual people. Even though they acknowledge this game, which casts one person as a secret killer who must be identified, causes fights every time they play, they proceed to play it anyway. Predictably, arguments do break out, and as a storm rages outside one of their number is actually murdered. Before long, the power goes out and the body count starts to stack up.
While the screenplay by Sarah DeLappe doesn’t craft the most complex whodunnit, it makes up for it in venomous wit that sounds natural coming from these characters. In particular, these frenemies no how to really dig the knife in and hit one another where it hurts most. But being friends, it’s done in a way that can be seen as plausibly deniable, or a helpful gesture in some way. But these longheld fractures have deep and lasting impact which comes back to haunt them all over the course of one gruesome night. Working in concert with the fantastic script is Reijn’s direction and cinematography by Jasper Wolf that conceals as much as it reveals, an integral component to the best mysteries and slasher flicks. If there
With a cast of so many talented rising stars and at least a couple screen vets, Bodies Bodies Bodies boasts a number of strong performances. Capturing the modern anxieties of today’s social media-obsessed culture looks easy for Stenberg, Bakalova, and most notably Sennott who continues to show why her breakout role in Shiva Baby was no fluke. And props to Pace, the “old man” of the group, for capturing both a creepy stalker vibe and Tinder date who is happy to just be getting laid. Red herrings abound, but nothing will prepare you for a truly excellent twist that’ll make you smack your forehead with disbelief.
Bodies Bodies Bodies could have stood to be a bit meaner in its examination of Gen-Z tropes. A gentle ripping of overused phrases such as “gaslighting” and “triggered” offers some laughs, but it could have gone even further. I can understand why that isn’t the case, though. The film already is walking a very delicate comedy/horror balance so why upset that? Besides, Bodies Bodies Bodies is never meant to be a complete indictment of these entitled, privileged snobs, just an acknowledgment that this is who they are and who they are can have terrible consequences.
A24 will release Bodies Bodies Bodies into theaters on August 12th.