Some dark comedy and modern satire on narcissistic millennials and Gen Z-ers can’t quite disguise the Clue origins of Bodies Bodies Bodies. A highly enjoyable and thrilling whodunit set mostly in an upper-class mansion in which the body count of friends is quickly tallied during a stormy night as the power goes out. In her American film debut, Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn keeps the viewer guessing who the killer is and features plenty of twists and turns where anyone can be the killer as she comes up with a third act that defies expectations. At its core, though, the film is a smartly gruesome one that offers a lot of social commentary by its screenwriters, Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Rouepenian (who wrote the earlier drafts and is credited with a story by).
Playing with the tropes of the “old dark house” that is updated with a more modern home which becomes a trap to set up a bloodbath of its hapless characters, the script by DeLappe never loses its dramatic or darkly comedic momentum in her characterizations and sharp satire that examines a group of characters in Upper New York living a life of hedonism and partying as they attempt to reconnect during a weekend stay. In a satisfying climax, which reveals the mystery should never be spoiled for anyone, everyone deserves to watch the long-kept mystery of this film that nobody could anticipate. The film mixes horror with hedonism, shock with satire, and ideas about the hallow traits of generation Z and millennials, who have the stereotype of being toxic and shallow as they live their lives through the screens of texting, Instagram, and Tik-Tok. The film certainly mocks these characteristics and stereotypes, but their nihilism and vapid self-absorption are truly ridiculed here in the most amusing and satirical ways.
The film opens up to a sunny summer field where Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) is intimate and ardently kissing her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), in which you can sense some anxiety and worry from Be. It’s revealed that Bee is reluctant and worried about some longtime best friends of Sophie’s that she’s about to encounter and meet.
Everyone is meeting at the mansion of Sophie’s friend David (Pete Davidson), who is a trust-fund child who holds a small party as his parents are away for the weekend. When Sophie and Bee arrive, Sophie is instantly welcomed by some, as you can feel tension from others. Bee has brought a gift for David of a wrapped loaf of homemade zucchini bread, where she is ridiculed by David for it. Other guests of the house include David’s girlfriend, Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), an aspiring actress; Alice (Rachel Sennott from Shiva Baby), who has her own podcast, who has an older boyfriend named Greg (Lee Pace), a supposed war “vet” who is muscular and tall; and we encounter Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), who is Sophie’s ex-girlfriend, who certainly has a lot of angst and bottled-up emotions brewing inside from the breakup.
As Sophie’s friends consume alcohol and drugs, Sophie announces that she is sober, in which you can sense some pseudo encouragement, as many just resort back to taking more shots of vodka and tequila, taking lines of cocaine, vaping weed, and Greg even uses a sword off the wall to open up the bottle neck of a glass of expensive champagne. You can sense Sophie’s friends are overprivileged, snarky, and dreadful rick youths, as you can’t wait for the horror to begin.
As the night progresses, the band of friends play a hide-and-seek type of game titled “Bodies, Bodies Bodies where they pull a name out of a hat, where they pretend to be a “Killer,” and they turn the lights off and have to tag their first victim, and the group must guess who the killer is by their mannerisms, speech, and vernacular. The game begins and situations instantly become tense as Greg and David have a confrontation that leads to Greg going to sleep for the night. This eventually leads to a brutal argument between David and Emma as everyone begins to become more hostile towards each other until the film takes a grisly turn as the lights go out from a storm, and eventually dead bodies come out one by one, which further escalates the tension between everyone as everyone becomes a suspect.
Aesthetically, the film impresses, with motivation light in the film that stems from neon lights, glow sticks, and cell phone lights. Cinematographer Jasper Wolf expertly utilizes this maximal impact to deliver its slasher horror movie effect. Filmmaker Reijn’s staging of the actors and the cutting by Taylor Levy and Julia Bloch heighten the intensity. This is a very stylish, darkly comedic, and heartrending film, where it takes you around a zigzag of endless possibilities of who the killer is and what the motivation could really be.
The tensions continue to run high, everything becomes on-edge, and the result is always thrilling. The cast all do a convincing job of playing deplorable people who all have their dramatic moments that prevent them from being one-dimensional. While the familiarity of the whodunit slasher has been featured in numerous other films before, from Clue, The Murder on the Orient Express, and most recently, Knives Out, there is a subversive quality that elevates all the horror movie tropes. Particularly of youth culture and our modern world, in which the filmmakers combine shock value with ideas about how friends in this ever-growing technological world of social media that make us crave attention make us such narcissists with toxic behaviors. What happens when we have to band together in a life-or-death situation?
The film really makes a commentary on objective reality as well—in which so many are so self-absorbed, how can one find the truth and facts of something before making it about themselves? Bodies Bodies Bodies asks thoughtful questions about how our instant gratification from the online world has undermined our better judgments, rational thinking, and common sense. The film also explores how objective reality can’t exist in the modern world of narcissism, as cynical as that may seem, because how can we collectively come together if our own friends become our worst enemies as we make everything about ourselves? While the key revelation here is that Bodies Bodies Bodies is in fact an effective horror slasher that certainly delivers the goods, and while it has shock value, it becomes increasingly more thoughtful and evolves as it goes on, considerably becoming a sophisticated and unpredictable genre piece.