Bodies Bodies Bodies — A Gen Z Whodunnit

Image retrieved from TMDb

If you mix the best parts of a whodunit, the paranoia from John Carpenter’s The Thing, and some sharp and witty satire, you get Bodies Bodies Bodies. In just over 90 minutes, we get solid intrigue, mystery, suspicion, humor, and thematic work, and it has quite a high success rate. A cast that’s firing on all cylinders, a tight script, and a confident director make this one of the best movies to come out all summer.

The setup is simple: Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) brings her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to David’s (Pete Davidson) family mansion, where their friends will be hunkering down to party during a hurricane. Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), and Alice (Rachel Sennott) are all there, along with Greg (Lee Pace), Alice’s much older new boyfriend. The friend group is initially apprehensive towards Bee, largely because Sophie tends to be, at best, an absent friend. When the rain starts, and after some drugs and alcohol, the group decides to play Bodies Bodies Bodies, where one of them is the “killer” and the rest have to figure out who it is.

The setup of this game is the perfect vehicle to deliver commentary on Gen Z, given that the entire group, save Greg, is in their mid-20s. Due to the nature of the game in which you need to accuse others of “killing”, oftentimes lacking evidence or full context, the group quickly devolves into throwing around the buzzwords you see on any given Twitter discourse. “Triggering”, “toxic”, “gaslighting”, and so many more are said, and the commentary on Gen Z’s penchant for devaluing a person in favor of an ill-defined ideology is brought to the forefront. 

At times, the dialogue runs the risk of going over the top, but the fact that it is so exaggerated is what makes it work so well. All of these characters are ridiculous, and none of them are likable — they’re all so drowned in their self-obsessed vapidity that they don’t have the capacity to give a legitimate second thought to anyone else. The satire leans so hard into absurdity that basically the entirety of the film is hilarious. Even when the first person dies — like, for real, outside the game — the tone doesn’t go fully into the dread of Halloween, with a killer on the loose. Instead, it walks its tightrope of paranoia, mystery, and farce perfectly. 

Each member of the cast buys into what director Halina Reijn wants from them as well. Sennott is the easy standout as the one with a podcast who hides her insecurities behind fast talking, being obnoxiously loud, and lacking almost any sense of self-awareness. This performance is hilarious, even if you wouldn’t want to spend more than five minutes with the person in real life. Pete Davidson is always Pete Davidson, but if you enjoy his “thing”, then you’ll enjoy him in this movie. A particular moment of his got probably the biggest laugh in my theater, in no small part due to his physical comedy. Pace continues to be a chameleon in his roles, Stenberg continues to do solid work, and Bakalova shows that her Oscar-nominated performance in the Borat sequel wasn’t a fluke. 

Reijn nearly has her work cut out for her with the cast, but still uses creative lighting and framing to tell the story. The power goes out pretty early in the film, but glow sticks and cell phone flashlights are great alternative light sources. You do get lost around the house here and there, but it adds to the confusion of what’s going on. No one trusts anyone, and people flip-flop on each other faster than Kevin Durant on an NBA franchise. No, it’s not up to the filmmaking mastery of The Thing (there are maybe two too many flip-flops), but it deftly gets at the paranoia and distrust that makes the classic so effective.

Even with its short runtime, Bodies Bodies Bodies just evades overstaying its welcome. It’s a thin plot, but a pointed message, so even though you might get tired of the supposed twists, and though even I predicted who the real killer was (a big deal; I’m never looking for that), the film still ends on such a perfect note that encapsulates its message in a single moment. It’s a whole lot of fun, and has enough to say that it overcomes an initially vacuous premise. 

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