A subversive slasher/whodunit centered on a toxic group of rich 20-somethings locked down in a mansion for a “hurricane party,” Bodies Bodies Bodies is an absolute trip. From the opening scene’s Slayyyter needle-drop, Halina Reijn’s second feature immediately centers its target on Gen-Z, warping into a suspenseful romp. Its scare tactics stem more from a satirization of frenemy relationships than traditional horror elements.
Director: Halina Reijn
Halina Reijn’s second feature, ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies,’ asks the question: What if the real horror is the friends we made along the way?
Five longtime friends gather at David’s (Pete Davidson) Clue-like mansion, but their tense introduction hints that the group’s friendship holds a sea of unaddressed issues. Rachel Sennott’s melodramatic Alice tries to smooth things over with niceties, more likely a result of her intoxicated state than good intentions, but the surprise arrival of Amandla Stenberg’s Sophie, a recovering addict and perpetual group-chat ghoster, makes waves regardless. She brought along her new girlfriend Bee, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s breakout star Maria Bakalova, whose shy persona lends to both her mystery and grounded relatability in the crew of trust-fund babies. Myha’la Herrold’s overly-organized, occasionally cold Jordan immediately clocks Bee (quite literally) as a malevolent outsider, despite her own attempts to morally eclipse herself from the group due to her upper-middle-class background.
When Sophie halts their drug-induced dance party to Azealia Banks’ “212” to suggest a game of “bodies, bodies, bodies,” a more physical version of party game mafia (or werewolf), the friends’ knives come out. Coked-out David, a version of Davidson’s provocative comic persona, gaslights his self-victimizing girlfriend Emma’s (Chase Sui Wonders) very accusation of gaslighting, after their relationship problems find their way into the game. Lee Pace’s Greg, a loose, self-care-obsessed man who Alice met on Tinder, lightens the mood—that is, until David socks the relative stranger in the face.
As the tension boils over, some members of the group separate, and the power gives out due to the ravaging hurricane looming over them. The frenemies soon find themselves being picked off one by one. As helpless himbo Greg would say, “Offense is the best defense,” and that’s exactly the route our characters take. The circumstances act as a pressure-cooker, erupting into a frenzy of pointed fingers and unveiled secrets.
It’s difficult to place the film in pre-existing genre terms, but that’s not a bad thing. Bodies’ horror elements derive directly from its thrilling satire of toxic friendships and performative wokeness, creating a symbiotic relationship of seamlessly blended genres. Sennott shines as the often clueless Alice, sparking a laugh with nearly every line, while Pace offers a welcome goofy presence. But the film’s consistent humor doesn’t tarnish its intensity. Stenberg manipulates flawlessly as Sophie, whose chemistry and tension with both Herrold and Bakalova flows into the mystery. Reijn noted at the film’s world premiere at South By Southwest (SXSW) that she intended to create a theater-like environment, open to improvisation and experimentation with Sarah DeLappe’s screenplay throughout filming, a choice that clearly paid off.
Bodies also remains visually interesting, despite a bottled set. The characters are almost always shrouded in darkness, lit only by their iPhones and the few flashlights they have on hand. Jasper Wolf’s cinematography lends to the gravity of the film, favoring close-ups with sprinkles of unique shots, like a 360-degree spin that spotlights the actors’ thunderstruck reactions to their imminent danger.
As Reijn described at the premiere, Bodies Bodies Bodies is “Lord of the Flies meets Mean Girls.” All rules of socially acceptable behavior go out the window when rich kids are trapped in their own toxicity. The generation-defining satire seethes amid its portrayal of social-media-obsessed upper-crusters, and it begs the question: What if the real horror is the friends we made along the way?