Spoilers for Bodies Bodies Bodies follow!
“This is not a safe space” serves as both the tagline and a signifier for themes to come in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the latest slasher flick from celebrated indie distributor A24. Directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, the horror-comedy was initially met with an abundance of buzz and general positivity during its film festival run earlier this year. Though it wasn’t until Bodies Bodies Bodies hit its theatrical wide release in August that more conversations sprung from the film’s relatively simple, yet ingenious social commentary which just happens to target its very own specific audience – Gen Z.
Bodies Bodies Bodies follows a group of wealthy twenty-somethings who are throwing a hurricane party in a secluded mansion. The worsening weather coupled with the loss of beloved cell service is grounds for panic within the group as emotions run high and a plethora of drugs is in copious use. After a dip in the pool, some shots, and an impromptu dance party, the group decides after nightfall to play a game that many might recognize as “Mafia”, but in this case, the partygoers refer to the classic pastime as “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”
Playing “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is intended to loosen the vibe, but soon the grisly discovery of a real corpse is made and before long it appears the members are slowly getting picked off one by one. The search for who amongst the group could be an actual killer begins, and it’s apparent that the hurricane outside is no match to the storm raging inside the mansion as utter chaos ensues.
The film’s ensemble is composed of a shallow and privileged group of individuals. Their toxic traits coupled with their reliance on technology come to a head when that crutch is taken away from them, prompting feral emotions to emerge and propelling the actors to a surprising level of intensity. Rachel Sennott, in particular, is a standout as Alice and passionately defends herself with a certain ferocity when her supposed friends turn on her. Then there’s Maria Bakalova’s Bee – a shy, sweet, and introverted person who breaks when pushed to her limits as well.
Bee ends up feeding off everyone’s heightened emotions and proves that even she is capable of killing another human under the circumstances. Her seemingly loyal partner Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) snaps and betrays her by locking Bee out of the house in the storm due to assumptions and mistrust at the height of it all. Myha’la Herrold’s Jordan wields a gun amidst the panic and confusion, resulting in another death with all common sense having disappeared along with the phone service.
Crucial incidents such as these are when and how Bodies Bodies Bodies peaks in its criticisms and overall message towards Gen Z: it is all too probable for a young generation to self-sabotage themselves with the overuse and abuse of technology and social media, no matter how outlandish it may sound. When taken to extremes it can be laughable, but along with the film’s humorous components comes its cautioning and vexatious implications.
Bodies Bodies Bodies uses satire to experiment with the whodunit formula. Halina Reijn stated that her goal was to make Lord of the Flies meets Mean Girls, and well, she hit the nail on the head with that idea. The film, mostly located inside a dark mansion, is shot in a very claustrophobic yet clever style. The actors actually light a lot of the scenes themselves with their phone screens and glowsticks, these accessories being their literal and perhaps metaphorical “guiding lights” as they try to survive the night. Reijn’s vision for Bodies Bodies Bodies really shines in this aspect, and this is where a lot of Gen Z tropes show face.
As they feed off each other’s fears, in comes the fast, overlapping, and smart ad-libbed dialogue, creating a loose comedic tone that flows naturally and isn’t too far off from Gen Z language or common “Twitter speak” today. Phrases like “stop gaslighting me” or “you’re silencing me” are surely cause for a laugh and some comedic relief (usually stemming from the powerhouse performance via Rachel Sennott), but at the same time are delivered in a naturalistic way that isn’t mocking the generation or attempting to make them look less intelligent. Instead, it couples the language used with toxic aspects like playing the victim, jumping to conclusions, and throwing a friend under the bus to make a point that hits home.
As one of the latest groups to grow up alongside the fast-growing internet and social media, Gen Z has had a very different experience being “online” in comparison to their predecessors. It’s now a common belief that due to social media and excessive phone usage, attention spans are shorter and gratification needs to be almost instantaneous. It’s also fair to say that certain youth now care about their online presence and profiles more than in-person interactions. This usually comes with a pursuit for attention, whereas this is true in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the characters quickly turn to desperate attempts to get the attention off themselves at all costs.
The group members constantly try to make themselves the victim in an attempt to lift any possible blame. Their narcissistic behavior highlights their self-absorbed greed and previously underlying viciousness, proving that they aren’t just individuals to roll your eyes at in annoyance but are capable of killing or injuring in order to preserve their own reputations; which is hilariously contradictory at times. Instead of working together to think clearly, the group delves into past grievances as excuses to point fingers, toppling any remaining relationships. Their constant self-correcting, talking but not listening, and obsession with indicting someone boils down to a situation truly born out of their own behaviors – something they are constantly feeding into throughout the film.
It can be argued that Bodies Bodies Bodies touches on themes of toxic masculinity as well. Pete Davidson’s David is a very insecure character who is a catalyst for almost the entire debacle because he felt threatened by the presence of another man, Lee Pace’s Greg. Although Greg has his quirks, he refuses to stoop to David’s level, overall not getting into it with him, treating the women with respect, and holding boundaries throughout. Regardless of this, in the mass panic, the women are still suspicious of the only man left and jump to conclusions, condemning him even before confronting him. This is ultimately what the group’s downfall comes to, letting hysteria take over with the desperation to place the blame on anyone but themselves.
In the end, with only Sophie and Bee left standing, battling it out in the wreckage the storm left outside comes the discovery of the phone of the first victim, David. In unlocking it and seeing a TikTok he was filming that reveals it was an accident that commenced the horrifying night all along, the comprehension and clarity begin to finally, at long last, set in. This knowledge has them reeling with realization as the renewed phone reception marks the end of the coked-up party night from hell. Their phones explode in overdrive with notifications once again, similar to their own minds processing the information that almost everything was completely avoidable.
Bodies Bodies Bodies doesn’t try to reinvent the genre, it rather has fun with its satirical nature that stays just in the realm of possibility. A social media era reimagining of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, if you will. The film was marketed specifically to those under 30 and doesn’t try to maliciously mock this generation but gives a glimpse into who they are, how they communicate, and how a lot of their unhealthy behaviors, if out of hand, can be dangerous. An audience may laugh at the end reveal and shake their heads at everything that transpired on screen, however, it’s here where Bodies Bodies Bodies then turns to the viewer.
Did you really believe one of them was a malicious killer? Did you get swept up along with them in all the panic and finger-pointing? The film itself is showing how easy it really is to jump to conclusions in a social media era, and how you may have more in common with these characters than previously thought.