Entertainment A subversive Scream-style slasher for the Gen-Z generation: Bodies Bodies Bodies review
A subversive Scream-style slasher for the Gen-Z generation: Bodies Bodies Bodies review
Murder mystery and slasher movies have enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. Whether it’s the revival of classic horror film franchises, such as Halloween and Scream, or the reinvention of the whodunnit flick through acclaimed movies like Knives Out – a sequel is coming to Netflix later this year – both genres have benefitted from movie fans longing for a cinematic nostalgia hit or something novel in either film category.
The latest movie to try its hand at delivering on the latter is Bodies Bodies Bodies, the English-language feature debut from Dutch director Halina Reijn. And, largely, Bodies Bodies Bodies does a great job of branching into new territory for both genres. A Scream-style slasher for the Gen-Z generation, Bodies Bodies Bodies puts a unique spin on the whodunnit and horror classes of films, with its flurry of black comedy, social satire, and tangibly subversive take on terror-fuelled flicks past and present blending together to pleasingly devilish effect.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses their life
Bodies Bodies Bodies stars Maria Bakalova (Borat 2, The Father) as Bee, a working-class Eastern-European young woman who travels with her rich girlfriend Sophie (The Eddy‘s Amandla Stenberg) to a party at a mansion hosted by Sophie’s childhood friend David (The King of Staten Island and Saturday Night Live alumni Pete Davidson).
The arrival of a potentially deadly hurricane forces the trio and David’s other guests – Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Alice (Rachel Sennott), and Greg (Foundation‘s Lee Pace) – to move the celebration indoors. Rather than call it a night, however, they decide to play Bodies Bodies Bodies, a murder in the dark-style game that quickly descends into vicious squabbling and splits the group – Greg heading to bed, David storming off, and the girls left to their own devices.
Not long after, though, the storm cuts the house’s power – and, as the girls look for a way to turn it back on, they find David, throat slashed, dead next to the mansion’s swimming pool. So begins a calculated game of betrayal, second guessing, and claustrophobic, tension-imbued sequences as the group tries to work out who among them is David’s killer.
In typical slasher and murder mystery fashion, Bodies Bodies Bodies’ eclectic cast of characters are moulded from the same archetypal clay that’s a prerequisite in such movies, including the stoner, the jock, and the popular-but-scatterbrained female. In that sense, there’s nothing subversive to Bodies Bodies Bodies’ approach to character stereotypes.
Where the film breaks with horror trope tradition, though, is how these individuals navigate the ominous prospect that one of them killed David. The mistrust that develops between the group makes for compelling viewing, with years-long friendships tested, individuals selling each other out to divert attention away from themselves, and the emergence of deep secrets that each character harbors. Think of it like a cinematic version of the hugely popular game Among Us – sans the astronaut-style costumes – and you’ll get the idea.
It helps that Bodies Bodies Bodies isn’t shy about bumping characters off, either. Sure, it’s a slasher-whodunnit film, so deaths are to be expected. Without spoiling anything, though, the death of the film’s prime suspect early on only adds to the suspense. It blows the doors open on which of the girls is the true killer, allowing the tension to percolate further, causing tempers to fray and backstabbing – literal and metaphorical – to occur in the film’s middle and closing acts.
If there’s one area, from a character arc perspective, where Bodies Bodies Bodies falls down on, it’s that its runtime doesn’t allow us to explore its morally complex cast in greater detail. At just 95 minutes, it’s on the short side from a viewing perspective, which makes for a tighter, more claustrophobic watch.
However, it doesn’t provide room to examine each character extensively. Instead, Bodies Bodies Bodies only offers a peek behind the curtain of each individual’s backstory; an issue that prevents viewers from connecting with them on a deeper, personal level. Given that these are all deplorable people with self-serving motives, it’s hard to care or feel emotive when any of them bite the dust. Despite their negative traits, though, giving us a better understanding of why they are the way they are would go a long way to helping viewers empathize with each character more.
Horror-filled humor and thrilling themes
Like the Scream movie series, Bodies Bodies Bodies isn’t afraid to veer into comedy territory – and dark meta-style humor more specifically.
It’s not as self-referential as Scream or Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk TV series is, but Bodies Bodies Bodies is certainly aware of its comedy leanings. Its biting social commentary on classism, drug use, and the horror and suspense thriller genres is pretty unsubtle, but it’s nonetheless amusing to see the film’s characters dissect such topics in explicit fashion. It makes for witty viewing and occasionally provides necessary tension breaks amid the movie’s largely suspense-laden atmosphere.
Thematically, Bodies Bodies Bodies examines the fragility of friendships and how easy it can be for formally close bonds to snap. It doesn’t parade this overarching concept front and center at the forefront of its narrative – after all, it’s a film that wants to thrill and entertain you for the 95 minutes it runs for.
Its exploration of this core theme, and others threaded throughout its plot, show how multi-layered Bodies Bodies Bodies is a cinematic spectacle. In some senses, we’re all killers – people who can terminate long time friendships or romantic relationships through our insecurities, anxieties, and jealous make up. With its broad-ranging, manipulative, and two-faced cast of characters, Bodies Bodies Bodies is able to examine this subject in a physical medium; an eye-opening example of how we have the power to destroy those we love and care for through the things we do and say.
The film’s study of such a theme needs to be gripping as, save for a few stand-out moments, Bodies Bodies Bodies doesn’t make full use of the tension that it builds. Yes, there are some suspenseful moments, particularly when a character finds themselves alone, inching towards the end of a dark corridor where somebody could be lurking. These occurrences make for some fun jump scares but, mostly, Bodies Bodies Bodies’ scariest or most horrifying elements aren’t as spine-chilling as they should be.
That extends to the movie’s climactic ending, too. Again, no spoilers here, but it’s a final showdown in keeping with Bodies Bodies Bodies’ black comedy styling rather than anything horror-based. It makes for a surprising ending to proceedings, one that turns the tables on what you’d ordinarily expect from a slasher or murder mystery flick. Those who might be expecting something more frightening or genre disrupting, though, may feel a bit short changed.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a highly enjoyable Scream-style slasher for the Zoom generation. It’s a carefully crafted, dark comedy whodunnit-thriller that largely subverts expectations and keeps you guessing about the identity of the killer until the final few minutes.
It’s not perfect by any means – very few films are – but, some niggling character development and suspenseful scene issues aside, it succeeds in what it set to do. That being, taking the best components of multiple movie genres, updating their core concepts for today’s audience, and telling a riveting tale about seven distrusting and damaged individuals who find out more about themselves in one night than they’d known throughout their entire lives.
That the film’s mostly obscure cast – Pace and Davidson notwithstanding – pull that off in such engrossing fashion is all the more remarkable. Bakalova and Stenberg will be household names very soon, thanks to their appearances in Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Star Wars‘ The Acolyte, a forthcoming Disney Plus show, but expect Herrold, Wonders, and Sennott to land big roles off the back of this one, too.
Simply put, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a cautionary tale about how simple mistakes can have grave consequences – and what better example of how horrifying or existential life can be is there than that?
Bodies Bodies Bodies is out now in theaters in North America. The film launches in the UK and most European nations on Friday, September 9, and in Australia on Thursday, September 15.