I’m not sure if I’ve ever rooted for a killer more than I did in the new slasher black comedy “Bodies Bodies Bodies”. And I’ve seen all of the “Friday the 13th” movies – a franchise notorious for the generic throwaway fodder it called characters. Here it’s simply a case of being stuck for 95 minutes with really dumb people who aren’t just forgettable, they’re insufferable. I guess you could say they at least provoked a reaction. I just doubt openly wishing for their demise was the reaction the filmmakers were looking for.
But it should be said that “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is very much a satire which becomes more and more obvious as the movie progresses. It’s satirical crosshairs are firmly set on Gen Z, specifically the young, privileged, and hyper-sensitive upper-class. So in truth, with perhaps one lone exception, these characters aren’t meant to be liked. But we should be able to tolerate them which I found to be harder and harder as the story went on.
In “Bodies Bodies Bodies”, director Halina Reijn and screenwriter Sarah DeLappe have a lot of things going on. And as often happens in a movie this busy, some things work much better than others. Though it takes time to find its footing, the black comedy element works the best. You have to navigate some early unfunny patches (such as Pete Davidson aggressively doing Pete Davidson). But the satirical jabs land well, poking fun at Gen Z and all of their popular labels and phraseology. And with the exception of one second-half scene which is admittedly amusing but way overdone, the satire is very organic to the story.
On the negative side, the horror/slasher angle isn’t nearly as effective. The movie borrows numerous genre tropes but doesn’t really put its own spin on any of them. There’s the getaway to a remote location (usually a cabin in the woods, here a mansion). We get a group of coked-up obnoxious young people who make great chum for whoever’s doing the killing. Of course there’s the proverbial storm that knocks out the power. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s no phone service. Unfortunately, none of those things add an ounce of terror to what’s essentially a fright-free story. The only hint of suspense is in the whodunnit element, but it’s mostly out of curiosity rather than any palpable tension.
The story is fairly basic. The first five minutes are spent trying hard to convince us that the otherwise chemistry-less Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) are a young couple. The pair are the last to arrive for a “hurricane party” at a big country mansion. The estate belongs to the parents of David (Davidson) who is Sophie’s best friend (another not-so-convincing match). David is there with his actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders). Also among the partygoers is a podcaster named Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her considerably older beau Greg (Lee Pace), and the temperamental Jordan (Myha’la Herrold).
As Sophie and and Bee arrive it’s clear there’s a little tension between friends. We learn Sophie is fresh out of rehab and her substance abuse took a toll on her relationships with the others. Bee is a shy and reserved working-class girl from Eastern Europe who is in the States to attend college. The party guests aren’t particularly thrilled with Bee being there and they aren’t too good at hiding it.
The party kicks off, lots of booze is downed, lots of cocaine is snorted, yadda yadda yadda. Later the wasted seven decide to play a game called Bodies Bodies Bodies. Basically everyone draws a piece of paper and whoever draws the one marked with an ‘X’ is the killer. They then turn out all the lights and the killer must “kill” one of the other players while keeping his or her identity concealed. The “dead” player must lay still until found by the other players. After that, the survivors have to figure out who is the killer between them.
It sounds like a fun game, but not among this lot who are soon arguing and at each others throat. But when one of them ends up with their throat slashed, the fun and games end and the story takes a darker and bloodier turn. What follows is more yelling, more accusations, and of course more bodies. We get several plot contrivances, some ridiculous character choices, and more reasons not to root for any of these people.
But again, the movie is saved once the satire kicks in. There are some genuinely funny bits that got big laughs from the theater audience I was with. And it helps that lines are so cleverly incorporated and earnestly delivered. The movie also sticks its landing, delivering a hilarious and fitting conclusion. It doesn’t erase all of the blemishes that came before it. But it makes them a little easier to digest. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is now playing in theaters.