"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Though BODIES BODIES BODIES is one of this year’s crop of A24 horror releases, its slick filmatistic style, hedonistic twenty-something characters and aggressive electronical dance music soundtrack remind me more of non-horror A24 movies like SPRING BREAKERS and ZOLA than HEREDITARY or THE WITCH. And for good or bad it’s really not in that slow-burn/moody/atmospheric/symbolic vein – it’s pretty much an Agatha Christie inspired whodunit with some blood and some dark humor.

Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, COLOMBIANA, THE HUNGER GAMES) and Bee (holy shit why did I not recognize Maria Bakalova, Academy Award nominee for BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM?) are a new couple, together for about a month and a half. So it’s a big step that Sophie is bringing Bee to meet her oldest friends. There’s a hurricane coming, and they’re all rich kids, and apparently what rich kids do during a hurricane is hole up at somebody’s parents’ remote mansion and have a party. Honestly it seems like a great idea if you have the resources (events depicted in this movie aside).

The host is David (Pete Davidson, THE SUICIDE SQUAD), who Sophie describes as her best friend since pre-school, but he and especially his actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders, ON THE ROCKS) seem annoyed when she shows up. Not as annoyed as Jordan (Myha’la Herrold, PLAN B), who’s mad because Sophie didn’t make it clear she was coming on the text thread. (Modern living, everybody.)

Alice (Rachel Sennott, SHIVA BABY) is thrilled to see her, though. She’s a really funny character – seemingly the dumbest, but also the nicest. Her negative thoughts only come out if someone voices them first, then she’ll candidly state her agreement as if trying to be fair. Somehow she seems to have offended the group less than Sophie even though she brought a Tinder date named Greg (Lee Pace, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2, LINCOLN, THE HOBBIT trilogy) who’s “like 40 or something” and uses an antique sword taken off the wall to open an expensive bottle of champagne David said not to open.

It’s amusing how un-self-conscious Greg is hanging out with people half his age, half naked, doing his meditation and shit, but later I felt protective of him whenever David tried to make him feel unwelcome. There’s alot of bad vibes in this mansion. (Mainly because of the cocaine.)

We learn that some of the tension comes from Sophie having put them through alot before she went to rehab. She’s sober now but they think nothing of doing rails and binge drinking in front of her. She seems to take it well.

The title comes from a “one person is the murderer” party game they play shortly before one character turns up actually dead. They tentatively work together to figure out who the murderer is and try to survive, causing all of their resentments, grudges and distrust to come out even more than before.

You may or may not like Davidson, a lightning rod for irritation since he started Saturday Night Live ridiculously young and then became better known for tabloid-documented relationships with famous women. I think he works well in this role, believable as an out of control cokehead who’s endearingly funny but with a scary hothead streak and an old-man-among-millennials attitude complaining about Twitter and stuff. The MVP male character is obviously Greg, though. He seems like he’s got to be a red herring because they make a big deal about him having been in Afghanistan, but that only creates a more interesting tension when everybody suspects him of the killings and he’s holding a knife. He could be the killer, he could not be the killer but feel he needs to defend himself, he could actually not understand that they’re serious and not still talking about the game when they tell him somebody is dead. Lots of possibilities here. Most importantly when they suspect he’s the killer they find him laying in a Christ pose with a weird mask bathed in red light. For a second I thought it was confirmation that he’s doing some kind of ritualistic killings, but then it’s explained, “It’s his light therapy mask. He has seasonal depression.”

Sophie is sort of the protagonist, and she and Jordan seem like the most reasonable people here, but I’m rooting for Sophie to turn her life around and Jordan is unnecessarily mean to her, so I side with Sophie. But the most deftly handled character is Bee. At first she seems like the audience point of view character, because she’s the outsider and she’s so nervous about meeting these people. They all go way back and see her as just the latest girlfriend for Sophie, plus there’s a huge class divide, and a cultural one since she’s a European immigrant, so it’s already very awkward before it becomes clear that the person she came with isn’t even all that welcome.

So it’s pretty slick how smoothly they shift from that to making her seem like maybe the prime suspect! We start to realize that we don’t know anything about her, and she starts acting weird and making strange choices, and seems to be lying about things. We start to distrust everybody as much as they distrust each other. Bee has this really vulnerable moment in the driveway at the beginning where she gets back into the car for a minute to steel herself for the social anxiety, check her eyebrows in the mirror and practice her smile. Later when the shit goes down they try to leave in the car but the battery’s dead, and she admits it’s because she left the mirror light on. It could be an honest mistake to feel horrendously guilty about or a devious plan to strand them all there. I loved that I really couldn’t tell.

I got a bunch of good laughs from this, there’s lots of great dialogue, and Alice in particular is a really funny character, in part because she never takes off her glow necklace and bracelets even while trying to hide from killers in the dark. But the advertising, the advanced word and probly my description here all make it seem like something more broadly comedic than what it actually is. The acting style is very naturalistic, it doesn’t feel like scripted jokes, it feels very real.

I’d seen the trailer for this a few times and it’s not inaccurate necessarily, but it gave me a certain impression that’s very different from the movie in context. It quick cuts through some lines that use contemporary buzzwords like “gaslighting,” “trigger,” “toxic” and the phrase “You’re silencing me!,” followed by a critic’s quote saying “GENERATION-DEFINING SATIRE.” Some of those come from a heated climactic argument that also includes the phrases “attention economy,” “you enable me,” “you are devoid of empathy,” “you’re emotionally abusive,” “I’m an ally,” and the lines “Mental health is a really serious issue” and “Don’t call her a psychopath, that’s so ableist.” (Also the tagline is “This is not a safe space.”)

Most of those lines are definitely jokes, and funny ones. In the screenplay I bet the scene reads very HEATHERS-like – enough so that I found it to be the iffiest scene, playing way more writerly and self conscious than the rest of the movie. But ultimately I also found it to be the most impressive scene, because the performances are so authentic that it achieves a really unique tone that doesn’t seem jokey, exactly. I love the absurdity that the ugliest part of the argument is Sophie divulging that Jordan only “hate listens” to Alice’s podcast. But Alice’s tearful rant about the work she puts into said podcast goes quickly from making me laugh to making me sympathize with her. I think the funny script is elevated by this uniformly excellent cast and the way they were directed.

As far as generation defining, the screenplay is credited to playwright Sarah DeLappe (a millennial), rewritten from a spec script by “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian (just barely a millennial) but the director, Halina Reijn (a Dutch actress who was in BLACK BOOK, and directed INSTINCT starring Carice van Houten of BLACK BOOK) is Gen-X. So I’m not sure if that means it’s speaking for young people or making fun of them, and being that I’m very close to the same age as the director I’m not one to judge how right she got it. But what I appreciate about it is that it feels like any satire is more laughing-with than laughing-at. Yeah, these young rich people are more sensitive than we were and kinda full of shit and what is with these TikTok videos, am I right, but the performances make them relatably silly people instead of caricatures or punchlines.

On a technical level it’s also very well put together, with Dutch cinematographer Jasper Wolf knowing how to shoot scenes with the lights out, very immersive sound design and rain effects, and a distinct sounding score by Disasterpeace (IT FOLLOWS, TRIPLE FRONTIER).

There are reasons some will say it’s not horror, and that’s fine, define it how you want. It is an intense character-driven experience with some sneaking, some deducing, some arguing, and some grim irony while trying not to die. I liked it. Stay safe, Millennials and Gen-Zers.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2022 at 12:41 pm and is filed under Horror, Mystery, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Bodies Bodies Bodies”

  1. I wish they would have marketed this as a black comedy akin to Very Bad Things becuase slasher this movie isn’t.

  2. A satire of Gen Z wokeness sounds absolutely insufferable, but I am always down for a horror-ish comedy. I’m glad it plays more like the latter than the former. I’ll check it out.

  3. I left this movie feeling unfulfilled. I know the entire point of it was to undermine horror expectations but I wanted the regular horror movie version of this. Although it was pretty awesome that ** SPOILERS ** Davidson was a jealous dipshit who killed himself so stupidly.

  4. It was alright for what it was. I saw the trailer way too much before an advance screening…then then a bunch more before it got a proper release, so it’s not something I have great urge to watch again. I prefer the more off-beat stuff like this and ZOLA from A24 more than their horror for sure. I am bugged about one thing the movie doesn’t explain as far as I recall:

    SPOILER

    Why DID Greg have that map with the house circled on it?

  5. @Stu

    Greg seems kind of like a survivalist type in his own hippy dippy way. I guess the thing about him being in Afghanistan is a non sequitur— I recall that someone says that he’s a vet, which is generally assumed to mean that he’s a combat veteran, making the kids suspect him when the first dead body is found. Only it is later clarified that he is a veterinary technician.

    Anyway, he never gets a chance to explain the map, but I assume it might be a good thing to have when attending a hurricane party out in the middle of nowhere.

  6. Loved it. I would not want anything to do with any of these people (except maybe Bee) but I loved watching them unravel. Bring on Bodies Bodies Bodies Bodies!

  7. A clever concept, good performances and a nice subversion in the ending still could not make me rate this any more than a generous 6 out of 10.
    It drags an many occasions and the cinematography in smart in how it lights people in the dark, but you STILL live through almost a whole movie being lit by cellphones. Mediocre in whole.

  8. I saw this alone in theaters. I don’t mean that I went by myself (which I do a lot), I mean that I was the only person in the theater when I saw it. Anyway, I have a thing for A24 Films and when I saw trailers for this on YouTube, I knew I had to see it.

    The movie itself was different than I expected. I know that the ads sold this as a slasher when it really wasn’t. The characters themselves weren’t likable. In fact, the only ones who came close to likable were Alice and that older guy. I felt bad for Alice when she died, but I believe that was maybe the point.

    I think I liked this enough to own it. Maybe I will buy it one day.

  9. I saw DICKIE ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR in a theatre (but wait! There’s more!) all by myself; I wouldn’t have chosen to see a film unaccompanied at that age (17), but I had a friend bail on me at the last minute and I was already there so I figured, why not? In those days even Adam Sandler’s films tended to struggle at the UK Box Office, so it’s not surprising a David Spade film would be empty. The weird thing is what seemed like a class full of young kids came in during the closing sequence; I think they were there for SCHOOL OF ROCK, which was in UK cinemas at around the same time, and I guess was showing next in that screen, although I based that on nothing but assuming they weren’t there for Spade’s magnum opus (and I guess SCHOOL OF ROCK is vaguely educational?).

    I went unaccompanied to the theatre quite a bit in c.2016-2019 when I had a monthly cinema pass, but the only time no one else showed up was for ASTERIX & THE MANSION OF THE GODS. I felt weirdly on edge throughout it, maybe half expecting another class full of youths to jump in unannounced.

  10. I started going to movies alone when I got my driver’s license. Frankly there were many I can’t believe I convinced my friends to see with me (one friend still quotes Gunmen with me). But also as teenagers, friends getting busier with non movie stuff, if I want to see something what am I waiting for? Then I worked at the movie theater and while friends loved coming with me for free, the likes of Terminal Velocity, Next Karate Kid and Radioland Murders were Fred Topel solo excursions.

    Actually I saw Pulp Fiction alone the first time but then I kept taking friends back to see it. Now that watching movies is my job it can still be very relaxing to take in a matinee by myself just to watch something.

  11. Ehh, I’d say a five out of ten? It feels like one of those short films that got blown up to a feature-length. The third act where they start yelling about podcasts is fun and all, but do we really need the hour proceeding it? It’s not really that funny and it’s not really that scary. And even if we’re going to call it more of a satire than anything else, they only mention race/gender/sexuality 1 1/2 times (David says someone might *hypothetically* call him a white supremacist and Sophie suggests people have a problem with her doing drugs because she’s black) and that feels like a bit of a pulled punch if we’re parodying terminally online zoomers.

    Also, (SPOILERS) it feels off that Bea ends up being unhinged enough to point a gun at someone to see if she’s cheating on her. They’re making fun of self-obsessed rich kids and then the non-self-obsessed non-rich kid ends up being as bad as any of them. Which seems… inexact?

  12. I started this several months ago, went to bed, and finally finished the job. Still not sure where it lands for me, but I was struck by LORD OF THE FLIES aspect of this, which is just, “bad things can happen when there are no real adults in the mix.” These folks are enabled to live as adult children, not just for this weekend, but really for their whole lives. I see it as more than a critique of class privilege or of Gen Z, though it is both. It’s an exploration of immaturity, lack of introspection, and lack of individuality — the herdlike, clique-like, peer pressurey, de-individuating, self-medicating climate. Not wanting to be alone but not really knowing how to be vulnerable with or faithful to others.

    Other than Bee, these characters are so unlikeable in their shallowness, that this makes for a tough sit, even though I like the the premise, look, feel, and the performances; and the ending seems fitting and ties things together nicely.

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