BODIES BODIES BODIES

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Halina Reijn

Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Pete Davidson, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, Chase Sui Wonders, Myah’la Herrold.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

A group of entitled and nihilistic twenty somethings gather for a weekend “hurricane party” at the house of bratty rich kid David (comedian Pete Davidson, from The King Of Staten Island, etc) as a storm rages around them. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, from The Hate U Give, etc) arrives unexpectedly with her latest girlfriend, the timid Russian Bee (Maria Bakalova, from Borat Subsequent Movie Film, etc) in tow. Sophie is recovering from her drug addiction and her appearance at the party is unwelcome. David’s parents are out of town for the week, and he has organised the party. The guests include Alice (played by Shiva Baby star Rachel Sennott), an opinionated podcaster with glowstick necklace; Emma (Chase Sui Wonders, from the tv series Generation, etc), a rising young actress; the passive/aggressive Jordan (Myha’la Herrold, from tv series Industry, etc); and Alice’s latest and significantly older beau Greg (Lee Pace, from The Fall, etc), who has just returned from military service overseas, and whom she met online.  

To amuse themselves the guests begin to play a game of Bodies bodies bodies, an improv parlour game (also known as Murder in the dark) in which somebody in the group is “murdered” and everyone has to try and guess the identity of the killer. But as usual the game ends up in arguments and disagreements. And then when a real body turns up things get heated, and all the guests begin to turn on each other. As the storm lashes the house secrets are revealed, lies are exposed and suspicion, angst and paranoia run high. Like an Agatha Christie mystery written by a Gen Zer, one by one the characters are killed in bloody fashion. 

All of the characters are rather shallow and narcissistic and completely unlikeable, but the small cast play them to the hilt. Amongst the most annoying characters are the abrasive David himself, who boasts of the “vibe” he likes to put out, and Alice (played by Shiva Baby star Rachel Sennott), whose nasally whine and gratingly shrill voice cuts through you like a knife. You can’t wait for their characters to be killed off. A lot of the dialogue is brain numbingly trite, but captures the Gen Z propensity for buzz words and cliches.   

Bodies Bodies Bodies has been written by Sarah DeLappe, based on a script originally written by Kristen Roupenian (the viral 2017 New Yorker short story Cat Person), and it is supposedly a parody of the tropes of the teen slasher genre. The film also looks at human behaviour under pressure and takes a vitriolic swipe at generation Z and their fixation with social media, class, and the toxic nature of friendships. But DeLappe’s script also pays attention to creating the solid backstories for each of the characters and bringing out the emotional baggage that each is carrying. Of the characters, only the timid Bee seems likeable enough although she seems out of her depth in dealing with the increasingly desperate situation and the reactions of these unknown strangers to the situation. 

This darkly funny teen slasher horror movie lacks that same self-referential quality of films like Scream, etc, and it is clearly aimed at the millennial generation familiar with social media like Tik Tok, Instagram, and the like. Bodies Bodies Bodies is the sophomore feature for Dutch actress turned filmmaker Halina Reijn, following 2019’s erotic thriller Instinct, which also played out in a confined setting, and this marks her English language debut. Reijn uses the limited set to good effect.  

Much of the film takes place within the limited confines of the house. Much of it takes place in the dark after the storm cuts off all the power, and the characters fumble their way around the house using the light from their mobile phones. Nonetheless cinematographer Jasper Wolf (who also shot Instinct) does a good job of using the gloomy lighting to heighten the claustrophobic tension. But the lighting is rather dark and at times it is hard to see what is happening. April Lasky’s production design and Luke Green’s superb art direction make the most of the limited setting and the darker visual aesthetics.  

★★★

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