Imagine showing up to a party unannounced and bringing along your new girlfriend for everyone to meet. This unprecedented selfish decision sets the tone for a series of unfortunate events in Bodies Bodies Bodies. Coming from A24, a distributor synonymous with timely indie darlings and fresh takes on horror, somewhat high expectations are placed on the English debut of Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn. A newcomer to US audiences, Reijn has an extensive resume from the Netherlands that includes a long list of acting roles and her first directorial feat, 2019’s Instinct starring Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten. Halina Reijn’s vision for Bodies Bodies Bodies brings our charismatic female cast to the forefront in this lively spin on the classic whodunit with an extra side of slasher and crude humor.
In Bodies Bodies Bodies, David (Pete Davidson) hosts a hurricane party for his rich friends at his father’s remote mansion. That’s right, an exuberant rager in the middle of nowhere during a hurricane. For a group of well-off 20-somethings, the only thing to do is copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. What could go wrong? Enter Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, The Hate U Give) with the aforementioned new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova, Borat 2). Sophie is part of the group chat but technically wasn’t invited, leaving things particularly awkward for the film’s cast of “friends” rounded out by Myha’la Herrold (Industry), Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby), Chase Sui Wonders (Generation), and the incomparable Lee Pace.
Not much of a surprise, but the dynamic ensemble of Bodies Bodies Bodies is tremendously hilarious without seemingly trying. Some are way too inebriated while others have meltdowns. That’s until Sophie gets the group to play a cautious game of “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” in which a designated killer tries to murder other players in the dark by touching them without being identified by the others. Things turn ugly when people actually start dying and friendships begin to deteriorate. Maybe they don’t know each other like they thought they did?
For our party-goers, the stakes never stop rising. As the hurricane outside grows wild, the body count increases. More paranoia ensues as the night goes on, making for long doled-out scenes between the girls. Their performances all complement each other and really capture the Gen Z tone. Everyone is quick to point to Pace’s Greg and Sennott’s Alice in their purposeful off-putting relationship. They met online and no one really gets Greg since he’s older by roughly over a decade. As the older wild card of the bunch, Pace goes from 0 to 100 without warning. At one point he’s relaxing on his own with a face mask and headphones while everyone else is literally losing their minds. It’s a familiar trope that feels refreshing here thanks to Lee Pace’s undeniable charm matched with Rachel Sennott’s wit, all imbued in Sarah DeLappe’s script. Pace and Sennott amusingly steal most scenes throughout. At the forefront are Bakalova and Stenberg, whose powerhouse performances anchor the film with a much-needed level of sanity.
Halina Reijn describes the film as, “Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies.” Not only are there nods to teen antics, but there are also similar genre call-outs in the game-like structure of predecessors like Ready or Not. The real horror lies within the friends who are willing to throw you under the bus to survive. The film is very brash about how quickly trust can bleed out in dire circumstances. Above all is an updated dark comedy meant for Gen Z audiences and those who can’t help but make fun of their assumed behavior. There are blunt and loud references to gaslighting, privilege, TikTok, and more. These are all easy laughs, yet you can’t help to think if these “in the moment” jokes will stay relevant for years to come. That’s when Bodies Bodies Bodies gets way too self-indulgent, whereas its story alone is strong enough to get the message across, the consistent reliance on this in-your-face humor is often questionable. Apart from some of this dialogue, DeLappe’s script has a solid balance of blood and levity, backed up by Reijn’s atmosphere of pure terror that leaves you just as anxious as the next victim.
Amidst the hurricane, the power goes out in the mansion along with the cell service. The group has to mainly rely on glow sticks and phone flashlights. Thanks to Monos cinematographer Jasper Wolf’s creative use of light, every shadow gives the feeling of someone lurking around, waiting to strike. Most scenes play out in darkness, putting us in the same stressful head space as the girls. The camera mostly follows phone lights through this unfamiliar mansion. Each turn in a hallway can be just as nerve-racking as the last. Needless to say, Bodies Bodies Bodies finds its footing almost blind-folded, making the best out of what isn’t always visible on screen. But when the violence and gore are seen, the bloody payoff is bold and effective. If the Gen Z humor falls flat for you then you’ll be sold on the film’s visual presentation alone.
Bodies Bodies Bodies teeters the line of gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss. The popular phrase is thrown around a lot on the internet and it’s honestly the most accurate way to describe the film. Does Bodies Bodies Bodies stand tall next to some of today’s best slashers, or even, with the very best of A24’s horror offerings? That’s debatable, given the film’s lasting relevance in the years to come. At best, we’ll be talking about Bodies Bodies Bodies as a time capsule of this day and age, providing a hysterical reflection on the current Gen Z culture that could, admittedly, bring out new discussions in the future. Though those talks will probably be about how Gen Z could make themselves their biggest enemy more than anyone else. It’s a fascinating use of horror as a framework that delivers more than enough thrills and kills for now.