Download: Review: Bodies Bodies Bodies
Much like the titular party game that kicks off the thrills in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the success of cinematic whodunnits usually comes down to the players themselves. And here, they are all more than game for the film’s specific blend of horror and social satire. Director Halina Rejin, in her second feature and English language debut, may have just helmed the best cast movie of 2022.
Unfortunately, that success also comes down to how satisfying the resolution is. Here, it’s a bit of a shrug.
Bodies Bodies Bodies initially strikes a tone similar to Get Out as Bee (Borat 2 breakout Maria Bakalova) arrives with her new-ish girlfriend, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), to a mansion that the latter’s friends are occupying to ride out a hurricane. Bee hasn’t met any of them before, and the vibes are almost immediately off. David (Pete Davidson), the owner of the mansion, and his actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) harbor a relationship bordering on physically abusive. Alice (Rachel Sennott), meanwhile, has brought her significantly older new boyfriend of two weeks, the spacey, hippie-adjacent Greg (Lee Pace). To top it all off, Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), the crew’s seventh wheel, can’t seem to take her eyes off Bee and Sophie.
The script so efficiently sets up the off-putting dynamics of the group that once the blood hits the floor, everyone in the ensemble becomes a suspect. There’s no plot armor for the characters as they’ve been developed up to that point, making it not always easy to tell who the lead of the movie even is.
But it’s these rampant unpleasantries between supposed friends that make Bodies Bodies Bodies such an enthralling viewing experience. Sarah DeLappe’s script skewers the Twitter speak of Gen Z and younger Millennials (at one point, Davidson gets to deliver an impassioned rant about the bastardization of the concept of “gaslighting”). The dialogue is sharp as a tack throughout, with every actor putting the perfect inflection on the words to mine as much satire as possible out of each scene.
Perhaps the hardest trick the film pulls off is how seamlessly said satire is integrated with Rejin’s genuine horror prowess. Bodies Bodies Bodies isn’t consistently scary enough to be called an outright horror film, but it genuinely earns its scares with an involving sense of atmosphere and clever editing and cinematography.
Still, whatever tone the film is going for in any given scene, it’s this impeccable cast that brings it all home. In the first act, it’s the boys commanding the show. Davidson sings as an entitled rich boy who lacks any sense of boundaries. Pace, however, is in part the film’s wild card, bringing a manic yet solitary energy that goes way far against his charming typecast. They are both magnetic to watch, especially together.
But when the women take over, questioning their shallow friendships as well as who might be capable of murder, there’s not a weak link in the bunch. As our leads, Bakalova and Stenberg keep Bodies Bodies Bodies at least relatively grounded in humanity, finding heart amid the scathing satire. They create characters worth feeling for even as we question their innocence. Sennott, however, is most in command of the film’s difficult tone. Her every delivery crackles with a depth that conjures a challenging mix of pity and comedy. Coming off last year’s sensational indie comedy Shiva Baby, Sennott feels like she could explode into superstardom if her next few projects are successful.
The film’s incredibly high entertainment value falters a bit as the script runs into trouble sticking the landing. For all the sharp social commentary that pours down like the hurricane trapping the characters indoors, the ending needs to strike like lighting. Instead, it feels like a rehash of a recent well-regarded, but thematically identical, work that, were I to call out by title, would pretty plainly spoil how this film ends to those privy.
But even if Bodies Bodies Bodies fails to strum up a stronger sense of originality in its ending, the ride to get there is more than worthwhile. This funny, frightening film is bursting with such energy and craft, from both sides of the camera, that it’s earned your attention. Just don’t expect to uncover a new layer of our younger generations’ psyches.