The latest A24 horror film, Bodies Bodies Bodies, is not your traditional elevated horror effort, if there is such a thing. Now, it does some things like other movies of its ilk, but in many ways, you haven’t quite seen anything like this before. That being said, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword in this case, as exhaustion and repetition does set in. At the same time, it’s a savage satire when it’s trying to be funny, while undeniably effective when it’s looking to shock. How much you ultimately like Bodies Bodies Bodies probably depends on whether you find the intentionally unlikable characters just too tough to spend 95 minutes with.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is almost as if The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers had a horror baby. Spoiled rich kids doing bad things needs something more than just surface level depictions to work, and it takes strong filmmakers to pull that off. That’s ultimately the case here, but it’s not without more than a few little bumps in the road.
Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) is headed to a hurricane party at the remote family mansion of her oldest friend David (Pete Davidson). She’s bringing along her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to the group of rich 20-somethings who she’s grown up with. Almost instantly upon arrival, both are looked at oddly by Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), even while Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her new boy-toy Greg (Lee Pace) are welcoming. Those reasons eventually are revealed, but things seem fine once they all decide to play their favorite party game, Bodies Bodies Bodies.
When the game turns deadly, the living characters immediately begin pointing fingers. Not knowing Bee and Greg, since they’re not long-time members of the crew, accusations of murder are flung around. With a storm raging and the power out, they’re stuck together for the night, hoping that a killer (or killers) is not lurking among them. Then again, as secrets and long-standing grievances come out and backs are stabbed, everyone slowly becomes as awful as the next person, fake friends that they all are.
The cast are all in on the premise. That commitment pays off, especially when shit hits the fan during the back half of Bodies Bodies Bodies. Amandla Stenberg and especially Maria Bakalova are our leads, so they’re who we’re given the most information about, so it’s no surprise that they’re the best performances. Bakalova as the emotion of the story, while Stenberg has to go through the widest range, acting wise. Myha’la Herrold and Chase Sui Wonders are solid as well, but slightly more one-note, though still doing good work. In terms of comedy, Pete Davidson and Rachel Sennott fare best. Davidson plays on his image, while Sennott depicts someone about as far from Shiva Baby as it gets. Lee Pace, unfortunately, is a bit wasted. The only other member of the cast is Conner O’Malley, since this is a pretty contained situation.
Director Halina Reijn, alongside writers Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian, are unsparing in their skewering of the culture. That helps in overcoming the repetitive nature of the story, especially when it becomes one accusation after the next. Reijn’s use of darkness and even pitch-blackness is pretty clever, while the moments where DeLappe and Roupenian opt to mix the comedy with the horror elements works more often than it doesn’t. I do wish there were less scenes where the surviving characters just point out how terrible they are, but it’s all mostly redeemed by a bold ending that I wouldn’t dare spoil.
Bodies Bodies Bodies may prove to be a bit divisive among audiences (and A24 horror flick dividing folks, go figure), but it’s no shock why my fellow pundits are so fond of it. It’s more than a little different, the execution is there, and there’s commitment to the premise from everyone. The good performances and decent surprises outweigh any exhaustion that I have about the repetition within, making for a mild recommendation from yours truly.