‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ Review
Bodies Bodies Bodies is perhaps the funniest—and almost certainly the meanest—movie I’ve seen this year, an unsparing and ruthless demolition of an entire generation’s verbal tics and mental crutches and class resentments filtered through the lens of a slasher flick. Imagine Luis Buñuel if his angels actually indulged in extermination, and you have some idea of the level this picture’s working on.
The setting is simple: a mansion in which handful of twentysomethings (and one fortysomething) are holed up as a hurricane is about to hit. The mansion is owned by the parents of David (Pete Davidson) whose best friend and fellow scion of wealth Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) unexpectedly shows up to ride out the storm with Russian girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) in tow. Rounding out the group is amateur podcaster Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her new Tinder beau Greg (Lee Pace, the aforementioned fortysomething), the overly suspicious Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), and David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders).
This is the first time the group has seen Sophie since she checked into rehab, a drug problem having led her friends to rat her out to her folks. But there’s tension all around. An unseen dude named Max slugged David in the eye before driving away in the only operable car the group owns; whether or not he’s going to return—or has already returned and is hiding out on the grounds of the mansion—is an open question. No one’s quite sure what to make of Greg or Bee (a predicament anyone with a tight-knit group of friends can relate to). The doubt over the newcomers mounts when the bodies start hitting the floor (a predicament fewer of us can relate to).
I won’t say anything more than this about the plot and I’m going to avoid using names any further so as to avoid spoiling anything; you deserve to see how this whole thing plays out as freshly as possible. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a bit like Zoomer-inflected Clue by way of Halloween with just a hint of Lord of the Flies for good measure.
The mystery at the heart of the movie is intriguing, for sure, and I don’t want to downplay the search for the real killer. But Bodies Bodies Bodies transcends mere murder mystery and becomes something more because it dissects so many modern digital pathologies with such brutal precision that you can’t help but laugh as you squirm in recognition. The screenplay by Sarah DeLappe takes a scalpel to contemporary pieties in ways that are both somewhat obvious—terms like “gaslighting” and “triggering” and “silencing” come in for much-needed, if fairly rote, beatings—and slightly more delicious.
As when one character recoils after she’s described as upper middle class, a distinction that destroys her internal self-conception as an underdog surrounded by elites. Or when one of the girls claims to suffer from body dysmorphia when learning that another’s mother has borderline personality disorder. Or when one of the characters says the meanest thing you can possibly say to someone: that a supposed friend hate-listens to one of the girls’ podcast and makes fun of it behind the host’s back.
Competitive intra-class struggle is at root of all these cutting criticisms. The modern elite mindset is no less competitive now than it was during the 1980s New York City of American Psycho or the Georgian era of Jane Austen, but just as Patrick Bateman’s goals were different from the Bennets’, so too are those of this Gen Z klatch from generations prior. It’s just that modern competition revolves around the ability to claim persecution: In a land of modern strivers granted wealth and power the likes of which the world has never seen, she who can lay claim to the greatest number of handicaps and the lowest number of privileges is Queen Victim.
That these arguments are happening while blood spills to the floor only highlights the pettiness of all such claims. It is darkly comic to watch spurious claims of oppression used as cheap trump cards in arguments to counter friends—or foes—who criticize bad behavior. Bodies Bodies Bodies is more delightfully reactionary in its sensibility than just about anything else you’ll see this year, which in turn causes me to worry that I enjoyed it solely because I, well, agree with the satirical thrust of the picture.
But one of the nice things about seeing a movie with a paying audience, as I did this week, is that I could confirm that everyone else was as into it as I was: laughing and gasping and hooting and hollering in all the right places. It helps that director Halina Reijn expertly ratchets up the tension as the evening progresses, choosing camera angles that limit our view of the action in ways that mirror the darkened, power-free mansion and using just enough jump-scares to keep the effect from feeling cheap. Bodies Bodies Bodies is as crowd pleasing as it is mean-spirited—which, possibly, tells us a bit more than we might like about the state of the world.