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Bodies Bodies Bodies

A getaway-gone-bad slasher flick, a savvy dark comedy and a twisty whodunnit, this Amandla Stenberg-, Maria Bakalova- and Pete Davidson-starring horror gem slays.
By Sarah Ward
September 14, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
September 14, 2022
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The internet couldn't have stacked Bodies Bodies Bodies better if it tried, not that that's how the slasher-whodunnit-comedy came about. Pete Davidson (The Suicide Squad) waves a machete around, and his big dick energy, while literally boasting about how he looks like he fucks. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan Oscar-nominee Maria Bakalova plays the cautious outsider among rich-kid college grads, who plan to ride out a big storm with drinks and drugs (and drama) in one of their parents' mansions. The Hunger Games and The Hate U Give alum Amandla Stenberg leads the show as the gang's black sheep, turning up unannounced to zero fanfare from her supposed besties, while the rest of the cast spans Shiva Baby's Rachel Sennott, Generation's Chase Sui Wonders and Industry's Myha'la Herrold, plus Pushing Daisies and The Hobbit favourite Lee Pace as a two-decades-older interloper. And the Agatha Christie-but-Gen Z screenplay? It's drawn from a spec script by Kristen Roupenian, the writer of 2017 viral New Yorker short story Cat Person.

All of the above is a lot. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a lot — 100-percent on purpose. It's a puzzle about a party game, as savage a hangout film as they come, and a satire about Gen Z, for starters. It carves into toxic friendships, ignored class clashes, self-obsessed obliviousness, passive aggression and playing the victim. It skewers today's always-online world and the fact that everyone has a podcast — and lets psychological warfare and paranoia simmer, fester and explode. Want more? It serves up another reminder after The Resort, Palm Springs and co that kicking back isn't always cocktails and carefree days. It's an eat-the-rich affair alongside Squid Game and The White Lotus. Swirling that all together like its characters' self-medicating diets, this wildly entertaining horror flick is a phenomenal calling card for debut screenwriter Sarah DeLappe and Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn (Instinct), too — and it's hilarious, ridiculous, brutal and satisfying. Forgetting how it ends is also utterly impossible.

The palatial compound where Bodies Bodies Bodies unfurls belongs to David's (Davidson) family, but it's hurricane-party central when the film begins. That said, no one — not David, his actor girlfriend Emma (Wonders), the no-nonsense Jordan (Herrold) or needy podcaster Alice (Sennott), and definitely not Greg (Pace), the latter's swipe-right older boyfriend of barely weeks — expects Sophie (Stenberg) to show as they're swigging tequila poolside. She hasn't responded to the group chat, despite claiming otherwise when she arrives. She certainly hasn't told them, not even her childhood ride-or-die David, that she's bringing her new girlfriend Bee (Bakalova) along. And Sophie hasn't prepared Bee for their attitudes, all entitlement, years of taken-for-granted comfort and just as much mouldering baggage, as conveyed in bickering that's barely disguised as banter.

When the weather turns bad as forecast, a game is soon afoot inside the sprawling abode. Sharing the movie's title, the fake murder-mystery lark is this crew's go-to — but, even with a hefty supply of glow sticks (handy in the inevitable power outage), it doesn't mix too well with booze, coke and Xanax. The essentials: pieces of paper, one crossed with a X; everyone picking a scrap, with whoever gets the marked sliver deemed the perpetrator; and switching off the lights while said killer offs their victim, which happens just by touching them. Then, it's time to guess who the culprit is. That's when the mood plummets quickly, because accusing your friends of being faux murderers by publicly checking off all their shady traits will do that. It gets worse, of course, when those bodies bodies bodies soon become literal and everyone's a suspect.

"It gets worse" could be a life motto for Sophie and her clique; they're at that stage of adulthood where their whole lives are supposed to await — until Bodies Bodies Bodies, the game, happens — and yet a whirlwind of disappointment and uncertainty lingers. Their friendships are stormy yet stagnating, old scores and misdeeds clattering down, secrets spilling, and past romantic entanglements still causing hail. Tension and unhappiness rains over their fragile arguments about grudges and jealousies, hate-listening and the word 'gaslight', and why 40-year-old Greg is even there as well. No one is making great decisions, or wants to be making decisions at all, and insular couldn't describe better the atmosphere that greets the quiet, reserved, clearly-not-as-wealthy Bee. Initially blissfully head-over-heels in that newly smitten, six-weeks-in way, "it gets worse" also starts to echo for her as the dynamic with Sophie unsurprisingly changes. 

As the kills keep coming, twentysomething malaise, mania and stupidity gets worse, too — and Bodies Bodies Bodies relishes it all. The dialogue is as sharp as a blade, and yet also like eavesdropping on any cohort of potential horror-movie victims trying to stay alive when they're being picked off one by one in a fancy abode; again, by design. Yes, there's much in the screenplay that's easy to spot. Toying with those formulaic pieces is the other game within the feature's fast-paced and tightly wound game, however, as bloody mayhem ensues sans internet, electricity, sobriety, trust and common sense. Capitalising upon the sense that everything is in a hurry, plus the careening cinematography by Jasper Wolf (Monos) that stalks and roams around the house, to mirror Sophie and her friends' inner chaos is a shrewd touch. That's Bodies Bodies Bodies all over, with Reijn utilising every shot, claustrophobic use of torches and lit-up mobile phone screens to light scenes, mischievous note in Disasterpiece's (Triple Frontier) score, obvious plot inclusion and buzzword-heavy line to irreverently rip into the film's many genres and targets.

Bodies Bodies Bodies unpacks us all, to be fair; who isn't a few unexpected shocks away from bedlam, from their flaws being exposed and their worst instincts kicking in (especially without wifi as a crutch, the film jokingly/half-jokingly posits)? This romp of a slasher-comedy shreds almost everything in sight but takes care not to tear its characters down — we've all stumbled, fumbled and fought to survive in our own ways, and life is uneasy for all of us. The cracker of a punchline conclusion is full of heartily dark laughs, not terrors, which is Bodies Bodies Bodies' entire approach to parodying and slicing everything it can. Managing all of the above with a killer cast, too? Especially with Stenberg playing it loose and mesmerising, Bakalova pitch-perfect as the wary but enterprising newcomer, Davidson doing his usual charismatically goofy thing, and Sennott and Pace stealing every moment they can with her lively ditziness and his hanger-on swagger, Bodies Bodies Bodies slays slays slays.

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