Murder mystery and slasher movies have had a sort of renaissance in recent years. Whether it’s the revival of classical horror movie franchises, like Halloween and Scream, or the reinvention of the whodunnit movie through critically acclaimed films like Knives Out – there will be a sequel on Netflix later this year – both genres have benefited from movie fans yearning for a cinematic nostalgic hit or something new in both movie categories.
The latest film to realize the latter is Bodies Bodies Bodies, the English-language feature film debut by Dutch director Halina Reijn. And, for the most part, Bodies Bodies Bodies does a great job of breaking new ground for both genres. Bodies Bodies, a scream-like slasher for Generation Z, puts a unique spin on the whodunnit and horror classes of movies, with its flurry of black comedy, social satire and a palpably subversive take on terror-fueled movies from the past and melt together into a pleasant devilish effect.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses their life
Bodies Bodies Bodies stars Maria Bakalova (Borate 2The Father) as Bee, a working-class Eastern European young woman who travels with her wealthy friend Sophie (the Eddie‘s Amandla Stenberg) to a mansion party 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 party inside. Instead of calling it a night, they decide to play Bodies Bodies Bodies, a murder in the dark game that quickly degenerates into vicious bickering and the group split up: Greg goes to bed, David storms off, and the girls leave for their own. devices.
Not long after, however, the storm cuts off the house’s power – and as the girls search for a way to turn it back on, they find David, throat slit, dead beside the mansion’s pool. Thus begins a calculated game of betrayal, second guessing and claustrophobic, suspense-soaked sequences as the group tries to find out which of them is David’s killer.
In typical slasher and murder mystery fashion, Bodies Bodies Bodies’ eclectic characters are fashioned from the same archetypal clay that’s a must in such movies, including the stoner, the jock, and the popular but absent-minded woman. In that sense, there’s nothing subversive about Bodies Bodies Bodies’ approach to character stereotypes.
Where the film breaks with the horror trope tradition, however, is how these individuals navigate the ominous prospect of one of them murdering David. The distrust that develops between the group makes for compelling viewing experiences, with years of tested friendships, individuals selling each other out to take their minds off themselves, and the emergence of deep secrets each character harbors. Think of it as a cinematic version of the hugely popular game Among us — without the astronaut-style costumes — and you get the idea.
It helps that Bodies Bodies Bodies isn’t shy about repelling characters either. Sure, it’s a slasher whodunnit movie, so deaths are to be expected. But without revealing anything, the early death of the film’s prime suspect only adds to the suspense. It blows open the doors on who of the girls is the real killer, causing the tension to seep through further, causing tempers to flare and backfire – literally and figuratively – in the film’s middle and closing acts.
If there’s one area, from a character’s perspective, that Bodies Bodies Bodies stands out for, it’s that the runtime doesn’t allow us to explore the morally complex cast in more detail. At just 95 minutes, it’s on the short side from a viewing perspective, making for a sleeker, more claustrophobic watch.
However, it does not offer space to extensively research each character. Instead, Bodies Bodies Bodies only offers a peek behind the curtain of each individual’s backstory; a problem that prevents viewers from interacting with them on a deeper, personal level. Since these are all deplorable people with selfish motives, it’s hard to care or be emotional when one of them bites the dust. However, despite their negative qualities, they give us a better understanding of Why being as they are, would help viewers empathize more with each character.
Horror filled humor and exciting themes
Like the Scream film series, Bodies Bodies Bodies isn’t afraid to step into the comedic realm – and more specifically dark meta-like humor.
It’s not as self-referential as Scream or Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk TV series is, but Bodies Bodies Bodies is certainly aware of his comedic tendencies. The biting social commentary on classism, drug use, and the horror and suspense-thriller genres is quite unsubtle, but it’s nonetheless amusing to see the characters in the film dissect such subjects in an explicit way. It makes for witty viewing and occasionally provides the necessary suspense breaks amid the film’s largely suspense-laden atmosphere.
Thematically, Bodies Bodies Bodies explores the fragility of friendships and how easy it can be to break formally close bonds. It doesn’t show this overarching concept at the forefront of its story – after all, it’s a film that aims to captivate and entertain you throughout the 95 minutes it lasts.
Exploring this core theme, and others that run throughout the plot, show how layered Bodies Bodies is a cinematic spectacle. In a sense, we are all killers — people who can end long-lasting friendships or romantic relationships because of our insecurities, fears, and jealous makeup. With its broad, manipulative and two-sided cast of characters, Bodies Bodies Bodies is able to explore this topic in a physical medium; a striking example of how we have the power to destroy those we love and care for through the things we do and say.
The study of such a theme in the film must be poignant because, apart from a few standout moments, Bodies Bodies Bodies doesn’t take full advantage of the tension it builds. Yes, there are some tense moments, especially when a character finds himself alone and crawls to the end of a dark hallway where someone could be lurking. These events make for some fun jumps, but usually the scariest or most horrifying elements of Bodies Bodies Bodies aren’t as hair-raising as they should be.
The same goes for the climactic ending of the film. Again, no spoilers here, but it’s a final showdown in keeping with Bodies Bodies’ black comedy styling rather than anything horror-based. It makes for a surprising ending to the proceedings, one that turns the tables on what you’d normally expect from a slasher or murder mystery movie. However, those who might be expecting something more terrifying or genre-disrupting may feel a little short-changed.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a very enjoyable Scream-style slasher for the Zoom generation. It’s a carefully crafted, dark comedy whodunnit thriller that largely undercuts expectations and leaves you guessing the killer’s identity until the last few minutes.
It’s not perfect by any means – very few movies are – but other than some nagging character development and tense scene issues, it succeeds in what it set out to do. That is, taking the best components of multiple film genres, updating their core concepts for today’s audience, and telling a compelling story about seven distrustful and damaged individuals who learn more about themselves in one night than they had known in their entire lives.
That the largely obscure cast of the film – despite Pace and Davidson – pulls off in such a compelling way is all the more remarkable. Bakalova and Stenberg will be household names very soon, thanks to their performances in marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Star Wars‘ The Acolyte, an expectant Disney Plus Showbut expect Herrold, Wonders and Sennott to play big roles too.
Simply put, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a cautionary tale about how simple mistakes can have serious consequences – and what better example of how horrific or existential life can be than that?
Bodies Bodies Bodies is now showing in theaters across North America. The film will launch in the UK and most European countries on Friday, September 9, and in Australia on Thursday, September 15.