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Bodies Bodies Bodies is a tense, dark horror-comedy… a slasher… whodunnit… with Y.A. melodrama in the mix as well.
It’s an enjoyable genre time delivered in slick fashion by actress-turned director Halina Reijn – making her second feature as director following 2019 Dutch drama Instinct. This the first produced screenplay from screenwriter Sarah DeLappe, writing from a story by Kristen Rupenian.
It’s a pretty straightforward premise: A wealthy group of young adults in their 20s get together at a remote mansion with a plan to party it up during a storm. Everything goes downhill when they decide to play “Bodies Bodies Bodies”, a type of murder in the dark mystery game where a victim gets tapped on the should and the rest of the players have to guess who the killer is. Well, it doesn’t take long before there’s a victim – a real victim. Yes, someone turns up dead, and one argumentative and very bloody night unfolds.
Our initial protagonists are new couple Sophie and Bee, played by Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova respectively. Bee is meeting everyone for the first time, so she serves as point of view of sorts in the early stages as we meet these people and get to know the various dynamics at play. Among the partiers: David (Pete Davidson), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Alice (Rachel Sennott), and Alice’s much-older boyfriend, Greg (Lee Pace).
While Sophie and Bee are our protagonists at first, that’s mostly to help us out in the overall character set up. But once the mayhem begins, we don’t really have a clear person to side with, which is both a plus and a negative.
It’s a plus, because the craziness that unfolds is mostly related to how each character breaks down over the course of the night, as well as the bonkers ways that events escalate as suspicions arise and the body count grows. Delappe’s screenplay smartly drip feeds little character reveals here and there, providing further reason for the craziness and to keep us, the viewer, on our toes as we also attempt to play detective.
The negative – and it’s not too much of a negative, I should point out – is that there’s often no one to really side with. So, while there’s certainly tension as to who’s going to get it or who could be accused next, I found that I didn’t really care if they all died by the end of the night. Perhaps the tension could have been racked up a little more had we been given someone to root for.
Still, that aside, the film works well – and it’s fueled by much stronger acting than this type of horror-comedy is often provided. The cast is great, and give immersive, natural performance that make scenes almost feel improvised. They’re talking over each, laying in spiteful jabs, crying, throwing in ultra-sarcastic one-liners – all while ensuring the film’s edge of deadpan humour is kept at the forefront. It’s a really good ensemble, with particular standout turns from Maria Bakalova (who was fantastic in 2020’s Borat sequel) and actress-comedian Rachel Sennott.
Part of your enjoyment of Bodies Bodies Bodies could be determined by how aware you are of the many references to today’s pop culture and the state of things for Gen Z. It’s often heavy on the satire, which of course mostly works if you have an idea of what’s in the satirical spotlight. That being said, it’s broad enough that I think most viewers will be able to get on its wavelength quite easily.
If you’re on board solely for the horror-slasher angle, though, you may be a little disappointed. You will have tension, you will have kills, but this is firmly angled to the generational satire and dark comedy side of things.
The film moves along at a nice, tense pace, although there are a few moments that feel repetitive, with the suspicion-blame-escalation-death pattern sometimes teetering on monotonous. But, thankfully, it doesn’t quite get to the negative, thanks the aforementioned performances and DeLappe’s cracking screenplay.
Director Halina Reijn has a strong eye and gives this film a polished, stylish look throughout. Working again with cinematographer Jasper Wolf, who lensed her 2019 film Instict, Reijn manages to craft some visually striking moments in this domestic, often dark setting. I’m very keen to see what she has in store in future.
Bodies Bodies Bodies has strong performances, an amusing screenplay, and confident direction. I enjoyed the ride for the most part – and I dug the ending as well. Although, I can see why some people could be left disappointed with the final turn.
‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ opened in Australian cinemas on September 15th and U.S. cinemas on August 5th.