Have you ever wanted to rate a movie using Olympics guidelines? I thought of that while watching Bodies Bodies Bodies from director Halina Reijn. Instead of a detailed review, mustering up all my skills as a film critic, I just wanted to say, Concept: 10, Execution: 2 and leave it at that. Alas, I have a job to do, and I’ll try keep it more interesting than the movie itself.
Taking the familiar slasher trope of gathering a bunch of people in an isolated mansion, adding an oncoming storm and a parlor game gone wrong, and Holy Clue (!), you’ve got yourself a murder mystery. Reijn and a whole team of writers center this familiar story around a group of narcissistic, self-involved, fake smiling Gen-Z types, giving the genre a fresh spin. It also helps that the look and tone of the film in no way resembles its glossy predecessors like Scream. Instead, you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if you hadn’t wandered into a revival screening of Blue Is The Warmest Colour with its opening handheld image of two young women kissing.
Those women, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) are en route to a Hurricane Party held at her lifelong friend David’s (Pete Davidson) parents’ manor. Fresh out of rehab, Sophie has only recently started dating Bee. Once they arrive, the friends already gathered give them less than a warm welcome. They include the fast-talking podcaster Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her new boyfriend and generational outlier Greg (Lee Pace, who excels as the hunky, mellow vibe bro). Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) uneasily dates David, a misogynistic jerk under his layers of Billie Eilish-style sportswear. Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) has an uneasy history with Sophie and is the first to stir up trouble with the new arrivals.
After a period of bad blood exposed through one micro-aggression after another, the gang decides to play a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies, which, like Mafia, entails one person secretly designated as the killer who, in the dark, taps one person to die, the lights go on and everyone tries to identify the culprit. The game continues as such until the killer gets exposed. It’s all fun and games until someone actually ends up dead, and then another, and then another, etc.
Hats off to the filmmakers for a highly original concept. By centering a story around two queer protagonists and surrounding them with people whose addiction to social media, to presentational wokeness, and to navel-gazing taking precedence over such things as physical safety and, oh, survival, the satire rings loud and clear. Clearly intentional, most of the characters exude nastiness and stupidity to the degree that you root for nobody, except for the charming but underused Pace. Sennott, so good in Shiva Baby, knows exactly what movie she’s in, playing her ridiculously chattering character so well, that you know that the only thing that’s gonna shut her up is if someone kills her.
But therein lies the problem. You start to hate everyone and stop caring who lives or dies. We watch them endlessly racing through the house with only their cell phone flashlights to guide them, but none of it seems to matter. I especially hated Sophie when Bee gets exiled outside by the others, in a raging hurricane, and Sophie does absolutely nothing to help her girlfriend. Sophie is a terrible partner, and in the spirit of this film’s nihilistic themes, I sat there hoping that Bee would lop her head off for this terrible transgression. By the way, Bakalova, an Oscar-nominee for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, delivers a terrifically twitchy, unnerving performance here, showing an impressive range while being given little support from the vague screenwriting.
After what felt like 10 hours, this 95 minute film sticks its landing with a very clever twist. It’s almost enough to redeem the entire film, but there are stretches where characters sounded more like talking points instead of real people, such as the line: “Don’t call her a psychopath, that is so ableist” which literally made my eyes roll into the back of my head, killing whatever wasn’t already dead inside me. I know it’s all in keeping with the point they’re trying to make, but even in a satire, you still have to care for somebody or something. Bodies Bodies Bodies made me want to leave my own body, or better still, stand outside my apartment yelling “Get off my lawn!” to the Gen-Z-ers who leave their Bird scooters in a pile out front!
By Glenn Gaylord, Senior Film Critic
Bodies Bodies Bodies is now playing in theaters nationwide.