Director: Halina Reijn
Writers: Sarah DeLappe, Kristen Roupenian
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott
In “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” a group of rich kids, five old friends, along with a couple of not-so-important people, get together for a hurricane party at one of their parents’ suburban pastoral mansion. What is a hurricane party? A storm has been forecast, and they’re using it as an excuse to barricade themselves inside, so they can dance to TikTok videos, do cocaine, and play games, including one that describes their more-or-less constant state of being: reading each other, outdoing each other. others, challenging each other like claw-baring rivals on a reality show. This, according to the film’s satirical take, is what friendship has come to in the age of gossip on social media.
The director, Halina Reijn, works in what might be called the straight school of 20-something melodrama. As soon as Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and her new girlfriend turn up and find the others lounging by the pool, the gleeful hostility begins. The characters are against each other and the film is against us; much of it is shot close-up, in the dark (at one point a power generator shuts down), with the storm raging outside, so the audience feels like they’re part of the pressure cooker.
However, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” also has a quick and witty aggressive tone. David, whose parents own the house, is played by Pete Davidson with a black eye that makes him look like a panda, and as soon as you have Pete Davidson in your movie, doing what he does (being a stunted bad boy, then spits out an observation so sharp that it undermines his shocking obtuseness), he’s signaling the audience to treat everything that’s going on as a joke.
Not too late at night, the characters decide to play the game where you “kill” someone by touching them, and everyone has to figure out who the killer is. When they’re all in the living room, trying to name this or that person as the killer, the tension mounts. They are taking this very seriously! They all seem to know each other’s secrets, and after one character’s romantic relationship is revealed to be riddled with sexual problems, the character walks away angrily. Moments later, his throat has been slit wide open. The knowingly histrionic zoomer soap opera has been turned into a slasher movie.
Who does not? We have no idea, but the implication is that he is one of the people available. For years, the entire paradigm of teen horror movies (first they kill this kid, then that kid, then this kid) has been traced back to the murder mystery form invented by Agatha Christie in “And Then There Were None.” “. “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” with its restless camera movement and impromptu-style acting and overall dramatic buzz, is like “And Then There Were None” staged by John Cassavetes for the age of Instagram.
So it’s, you know, fun? In “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” people keep getting eliminated, but in a weird way, the movie isn’t a horror movie. The slasher isn’t some mythical force of looming evil, and in fact a couple of murders are committed right in front of us, by characters we can see. Greg, the token oldest member of the group (he’s the stocky, woodsy 40-year-old guy who’s been dating Alice) is considered an outsider, so when he’s lying in the basement gym meditating under his light therapy mask, Women surround him as if he is the killer. Weapons are at hand, and soon they will be being wielded. Fear and paranoia increase; the more Greg tries to protect himself, the more he seems to be threatening them. It’s an explosive sequence that culminates in an act of violence by the last person we expected to do it.
We are hungry to know, but the answer, until the superb final twist, remains out of reach. The clues, however, take the form of each character revealing who exactly she is. And the actors are good enough to make that a watchable proposition. Amandla Stenberg’s Sophie is relatively warm, sane and romantic, until it is revealed that she is not.