Director Halina Reijn‘s “Bodies Bodies Bodies” starts out rough. At first glance, it appears to be just another irritating, Gen Z mumblecore movie with a horror twist, a story of mean girls who like to party. It takes about fifteen minutes but once the story begins to unfold, the film picks up speed and never slows down. This is a fun genre thriller that exceeds all expectations.
A raging storm is brewing when Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) brings her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to visit old (and wealthy) friends for a hurricane party. The group of twentysomethings are ready to ride out the evening at David’s (Pete Davidson) stately home with plenty of booze and drugs. Alice (Rachel Sennott), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) don’t seem too happy to see their old friend, and it’s clear there’s some history that hasn’t been dealt with. When the rain begins to fall and the power goes out, the gang decides to play a popular party game with a “murderer” and “victims” to pass the time. What seems like a harmless whodunit quickly escalates when they discover an actual dead body on the ground outside. Convinced a killer is among them, the friends must uncover the guilty party if they hope to survive until sunrise.
The film has plenty of dark comedy elements, but is mostly played like a straight horror thriller. It’s bloody and violent but not over-the-top, and Sarah DeLappe writes some vicious zingers and one-liners. What’s most interesting about the film is the social commentary and its female-centered focus. DeLappe understands the psyche of young women, and the script is accurate in its portrayal of female cliques and social order. The power dynamics shift wildly as accusations fly (and more bodies begin to pile up), with suspicions and the stress level eventually reaching the breaking point. It’s when they begin to turn on each other that the knives truly come out.
The story also offers a critique of Gen Z values and the very real pressures to belong. The women are all affluent and pretty, yet they each struggle with their own form of self-loathing. Bee is an outsider in a rich person’s world, and she tries her best to fit in. Anyone who’s ever found themselves in a similar social situation as a perceived outsider will understand. (A good companion piece to this film is the Australian thriller “Sissy,” which also offers an interesting take on the female horror genre).
While the script is smart and the performances effective, the film achieves its greatest success with its use of lighting. There’s a level of realism that thrusts viewers right into the action, adding a sense of dread and suspense around every corner. The confined setting is completely dark with scenes cleverly lit with only the light from an iPhone, an emergency headlamp, and glow-in-the-dark bracelets. It’s a creepy and effective way to ramp up the atmosphere.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” offers an enjoyable (and perceptive) murderous killer story that feels familiar, yet different. It’s psychological horror with a body count.