Oone of the summer’s greatest pleasures is the purely enjoyable, disposable horror film that comes with no pretense of being “elevated,” a term that denigrates the entire genre anyway. Bodies Bodies Bodies— the English-language debut of Dutch director Halina Rein, written by playwright Sarah DeLappe, based on a story by Kristen Roupenian, of “Cat Person” fame – takes a while to get going, and his deliberately rushed dialogue makes the pacing a little creaky at times. But the picture – in which a group of friends gather at a remote estate to party through a hurricane – has a clear sense of humor about itself and its target audience. It is ostensibly Gen Z, although it might include you and me. The film doesn’t try to explain an entire generation, but it empathizes with the realities of young people trying to make their way in the world right now. It also features a kicker so hugely, stupidly satisfying that I found myself laughing about it on the subway ride home.
Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, from The hate you give) and Pchela (Maria Bakalova, office Borat Next Movie Movie) are a couple recently or maybe just possibly in love; they are introduced to us in a gentle, dreamy opening that captures both the thrill and uncertainty of starting out as a couple. These feelings intensify, especially for Bea, when the two arrive at the party they had planned to attend, hosted by Sophie’s childhood best friend, super rich kid David (Pete Davidson), in his family’s gated compound. It turns out that Sophie hadn’t told anyone in this little group of friends that she was coming. Also, she didn’t tell them that she was recently sober. When she arrives, along with Bea, they go wild, before a storm, in David’s giant family pool. In their wet bathing suits and dripping hair, they criticize her, with a lot of smiling passive-aggression, for not responding to the group chat. Bi, probably the only person in this crowd who doesn’t come from money, clumsily hands over the homemade banana bread he brought. Later, another guest, Jordan (Micha’la Herrold), a woman with a take-no-prisoners look, leaves Bea alone and half-warns, half-commands to “be careful” with Sophie.
Then the hurricane hits. The proper preparations are made: there are plenty of batteries (not to mention cell phone flashlights), as well as snacks, alcohol and coke, with Xanax on hand for the occasional anxiety attack. The group, which also includes David’s actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sue Wonders), the dumb and smart rich girl Alice (Rachel Sennott), and the “older guy” Alice is dating, Greg (Lee Pace), who, the others hiss behind his back, must be at least 40—decide to play a favorite game. Everyone gets a piece of paper; one is marked with an X, deeming that person to be the “killer”. The goal is to avoid touching the killer. As the night goes on – during which the lights go out, naturally – the game gets, predictably, literal.
Lee Pace and Pete Davidson in Bodies Bodies Bodies
Courtesy of A24
Yet the filmmakers and their actors find ways to refresh every convention of the genre. As the bodies pile up, resentment and rivalry shine to the fore. There is heated discussion about the word Gaslight (has it been used to the point of nonsense?), revelations about secret family issues (“My mom’s borderline,” one character admits, eliciting coos of sympathy from the others), some rants about how hard it is to keep up a podcast and a mask for light therapy used as a stopper. There’s a lot of teen-house-party-horror dialogue between them: “Wait, where’s Emma?” “I heard something!” “Don’t touch her!” and the evergreen “What’s going on?”
We also get the requisite bloody corpses and some semi-serious observations about what it means to have a job — any job — as a recent college grad. (Even in this crowd, there’s no shame in having a gig at GameStop.) Davidson, as the party’s host, holds court over the film’s early scenes: his thin, tattooed limbs, his stocking-and-skate elan, his eyes with eternal rings like of a raccoon – which here happen to be accentuated by an unexplained glow that looks almost normal on him – he is perhaps our first vitamin-deficient sex symbol. He also gets and milks the best moment of the movie. Bodies Bodies Bodies is one of those movies that wins you over scene by scene before sealing the deal with its wonderful, ridiculous ending. Watch it with a group of friends you love. Or even just dissatisfaction.
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