Dir: Halina Reijn. Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, Pete Davidson. 15, 94 minutes.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a slasher flick written in Generation Z code – blase, bitter, and bloody. A small coven of recent college graduates meet at the manor home of one of their parents, all waiting out an incoming hurricane. They are the newly sober Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), her best friend David (Pete Davidson), David’s actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), the friend group parent Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), and Alice (Rachel Sennott), who describes her recently launched podcast as like “hanging out with your smartest, funniest friend”.
Then, a round of a murder mystery party game called Bodies Bodies Bodies – not unlike Mafia – ends with a real corpse out on the patio. The ensuing mayhem triggers an apocalyptic crisis of the ego, where personal slights blow up into Judas-worthy betrayals and the last vestiges of honest emotion are swallowed up by Twitter buzzwords. “Don’t call her a psychopath, that’s, like, so ableist.” “Creative non-fiction is a valid response in an attention economy.” “You hate-listen to her podcast.” Is Bodies Bodies Bodies just another scornful put-down of the incoming generation by their demographic elders? None of the film’s creative team – Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn, screenwriter Sarah DeLappe, and author Kristen Roupenian (behind the viral short story “Cat Person”) – belong to Gen Z. You could argue that they don’t really have the authority to speak on behalf of those they portray.
But Bodies Bodies Bodies is damn funny, often deliriously so, like when Davidson aggressively delivers the line, “I just look like I f**k. That’s the vibe I like to put out there.” And if there’s any sense of moral condemnation to the film, it’s aimed not so much at Gen Z themselves, but at the idea that any generation is really all that elevated from the next. The language may change, but the rage remains the same. As a prelude to each round of the Bodies Bodies Bodies game, the characters sit around in a circle and slap each other in the face as hard as they can. That’s what passes as group therapy for these people.
It’s peak nihilistic entertainment, watching these souls try, in vain, to keep their fragile reputations intact while they’re drenched head to toe in blood. There’s a scene where Jordan, the self-appointed mediator of the group, tries to de-escalate the situation while waving a meat cleaver in the air. As always, their body language gives them away. That chaos is thrillingly replicated by Jasper Wolf’s cinematography, with glow stick bracelets and iPhone flashlights the only things that guide us through the hungry dark.
Sennott, building off her breakout role in 2020’s equally merciless Shiva Baby, is the film’s real comedic gem. There’s an exquisite hollowness to the little “yay” she lets out in response to the revelation that Sophie’s fresh out of rehab. But Bodies Bodies Bodies ultimately works because Reijn offers multiple levels within this out-sized parody, as best demonstrated through the party’s two unexpected guests. One is Alice’s significantly older, performatively cool date Greg. He’s played by Lee Pace with the exact kind of goofiness needed for a guy who thinks it’s impressive to open a champagne bottle with a Gurkha sword.
The other, Sophie’s new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova), is the only person here not drowning in privilege, and the closest thing Bodies Bodies Bodies has to a rootable protagonist. The couple are introduced mid-makeout session, wrapped up in tender, dizzy affection. But surprise, surprise – even their love turns out to be a deep-rooted sham. No one’s truly innocent here. Not Gen Z. Not the audience. And for anyone who doesn’t see even the faintest degree of their own fickleness projected onto these characters? They may be lying to themselves.
‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ is in cinemas from 9 September