Bodies Bodies Bodies, the new film from Dutch director Halina Reijn, may offer more than its fair share of mangled and bloody corpses, but its gnarliest moments have nothing to do with death or murder. Instead, the new A24 horror comedy ultimately cares less about the deaths of the characters it traps in its suitably spooky mansion and more about burning the images they have of themselves to the ground. Thanks to its ensemble of social media-obsessed Gen Z narcissists, Bodies Bodies Bodies’ decision to prioritize social death over literal death proves to be well-founded.
Over the course of its tight 95-minute runtime, the film sends its characters spiraling down their own rabbit holes of paranoia and desperation until there’s nothing left for them to do but blame each other for the difficult situations they’ve found themselves in. For that reason, Bodies Bodies Bodies tends to be at its best and most biting when it isn’t operating as a standard slasher movie, but rather as a kind of nightmarish new take on Clue for the TikTok generation.
The film’s inability to always find the right balance between satire and horror ultimately ends up dulling the impact of its bloodier moments. Fortunately, the performances given by Bodies Bodies Bodies’ energetic cast members not only help ratchet up its all-consuming sense of paranoia but also make its scathing critiques of their characters land with maximum impact.
A killer game
Bodies Bodies Bodies opens as Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), a recovering addict from a rich family, is in the midst of making her way to a gathering between some of her closest friends with her doe-eyed, middle-class girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova). When they arrive, Bee is introduced to all of Sophie’s closest friends, including Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Alice (Rachel Sennott), and David (Pete Davidson). In the same sequence, Bee and Sophie are also introduced to Alice’s relatively new, airheaded older boyfriend, Greg (a perfectly cast Lee Pace).
It doesn’t take long for conflicts to begin breaking out between Sophie and her friends, many of whom are quick to express their frustration over her failure to alert them about her forthcoming arrival in their shared group chat. Everything quickly descends into total chaos, however, when Sophie suggests that they play a murder mystery game called “bodies bodies bodies” just moments before a hurricane completely cuts off the electricity to the secluded mansion they’ve taken up residence in for the weekend.
When one of the group’s members is found dead shortly thereafter, their surviving friends are forced to wander through the mansion’s pitch-black hallways in order to make it through the night alive and, hopefully, discover which of them is secretly a killer. The film’s script, which was written by Sarah DeLappe, takes a bit too long to truly get going, but Bodies Bodies Bodies kicks into high gear in its second act — delivering an experience that frequently feels like a drug-fueled combination of the murder mystery and slasher movies genres. To its credit, Bodies Bodies Bodies also knows that every murder mystery is only as memorable as the suspects at the center of it.
A horror comedy with more laughs than scares
Coming off her star-making turn in 2020’s Shiva Baby, Rachel Sennott gives one of the funniest performances of the year as Alice, the drunkest, loudest, and most easily offended of Bodies Bodies Bodies‘ Gen Z targets. By imbuing the flatly naïve Bee with more depth and sincerity than most other actors might have, Maria Bakalova also cements her status as one of Hollywood’s most promising young actors. Reijn, meanwhile, makes the most out of Bakalova’s wide, dark eyes the same way she does Lee Pace’s movie-star good looks.
Despite the fact that the film’s premise forces her and cinematographer Jasper Wolf to shoot most of it in overwhelmingly dark spaces, Reijn also manages to ensure that Bodies Bodies Bodies is, for the most part, a legible and clear visual experience. By relying largely on the flashlights from her characters’ phones, Reijn even succeeds at engrossing viewers in the same paranoid headspace of Bodies Bodies Bodies’ unlucky partygoers. The director’s reliance on handheld, unsteady camera movements only further helps to heighten the film’s constantly growing sense of fear and disorientation as well.
That said, Bodies Bodies Bodies‘ murder mystery structure does also rob it of the kind of gory, slasher thrills that its premise promises. Most of the film’s victims are killed off-camera, which results in Bodies Bodies Bodies working less as a bloody horror movie and more as a paranoia-driven black comedy. The film’s satirical, intentionally tongue-in-cheek humor never becomes grating though, and its overall strength as a black comedy does a lot to make up for its lackluster horror elements.
A scathing satire of Gen Z
For all its flaws, DeLappe’s script succeeds at riding a difficult satirical line, one that makes the film unafraid of mocking Gen Z inhabitants without ever smothering viewers with its own judgmental thoughts. Instead, Bodies Bodies Bodies lets its characters’ actions speak for themselves. That’s especially true during the film’s most inspired sequence, which sees its central conflict devolve for several minutes into an argument between Bodies Bodies Bodies’ survivors about which of them is the biggest victim.
The sequence sharply lampoons the social media generation’s worst impulses without ever feeling like an afterschool special about the toxicity of online behavior. The scene also marks a major turning point in Bodies Bodies Bodies by introducing a kind of frenzied chaos and heightened, observational sense of humor that it maintains throughout the remainder of its runtime. The film manages to do that because it understands that, in most horror movies, a tense fight to the death would usually revolve entirely around which of the scene’s characters can manage to reach a weapon in time.
Bodies Bodies Bodies complicates that simple conflict, however, by throwing a phone into the mix and forcing its characters to decide what is more important: the gun that could kill them, or the phone that could expose them. Bodies Bodies Bodies frequently stumbles before it finally gets around to offering a resolution to that dilemma, but when it does, the film hits a bleakly comic high that makes everything that came before it seem simultaneously more pointless and worthwhile than it did originally.
Bodies Bodies Bodies hits theaters on Friday, August 5.
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