Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “why am I still friends with these people?” We all have those childhood friends that no matter what drama happens between us we just can’t shake them off. There is a sense of chaos that comes with friendships that have lasted almost your whole life and has allowed for dirty secrets to be stored in hopes of releasing them at opportune moments. These “moments” in Halina Reijn’s Generational Z comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies come at many times but is even more amplified when bodies start hitting the floor. A quasi slasher-horror comedy that is less satire on Gen Z and more an observation of its entire syntax and outlook on their social media dictated life. This is the kind of film that is destined to be a new hit at sleepovers and Sunday hungover mornings. Even when it falters there is an understanding that this will benefit from multiple viewings with your closest and most insufferable friends.
Bee is an outsider, played innocently by Maria Bakalova (fresh off her Oscar nomination for Borat 2) she is not only a foreigner to the United States she is is entering her girlfriend Sophie’s (Amandla Stenberg) new group of friends. Bee is every person who has to endure that awkward and quite miserable experience of trying to keep up with inside jokes and instant judgement from your partner’s old friends and ex flames. These friends include Sophie’s best friend David (an unhinged Pete Davidson) his girlfriend and wannabe actress Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), aspiring podcaster Alice (a scene stealing Rachel Sennott), her new mysterious older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) and finally Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) an ex-girlfriend of Sophie’s. It is quite a bunch that does everything in their power to give Bee a miserable welcome. This includes mocking the Bulgarian food gift that Bee brings, to bringing up intimate moments they shared with Sophie. They have all gathered at David’s parents’ mansion to throw a hurricane party. As they gather out by the pool it is clear the rest of the group has stayed in touch while Sophie has gone her own way and is resented by the group for this. Pete Davidson has become an internet obsession due to his dating life, and here he is embodying an extensive mocking version of himself that would exist if Davidson wasn’t charming in real life. “I look like I fuck!” David proclaims to Sophie doing everything in his power to make her remorseful of not being around such greatness. This behavior continues in other fashions from the group from Alice’s passive aggressiveness to Jordan’s immediate disproval of Sophie and Bee’s relationship. To make matters worse all this happens way before blood starts to begin to shed.
Unfamiliar with the game “bodies bodies bodies”? You are not alone. To make it easier Reijn has created a hybrid of “Mafia” and “Werewolf” that also involves taking a shot of vodka and slapping the person next to you in the face as set up for the game. The lights go out, the murderer claims a victim and the group must identify while the “dead” remains lying down. Simple enough, but what Bodies Bodies Bodies does so well is use this game of distrust and mystery to completely destroy these friendships. Each “playful” slap contains long deep seeded anger for one another. Imagine instead of talking things out with your friend you get to just slap the shit out of them and call it a day. Maybe this would have resolved everything, but before the game can be finished the power goes out and one of their own is found dead with their throat slit. Can the killer really be one of these privileged and self-obsessed kids and how will you survive the night without wifi?! The film has tons of surprises up its sleeve so no exposing them here, but Reijn and her cinematographer Jasper Wolf have created great use of their space and lighting to keep the entire film on its toes. Much of the film is lit by cellphone flashlights and the house for all its extravagance becomes a huge obstacle where the killer can find a multitude of places to hide. Most whodunnits revolve around finding a motive, but thankfully this film turns that on its side and has given us many reason for why any of these kids (and one grown man) could snap at any point. Sophie a recovering addict is using again, Jordan has a “if I cant have her no one can” attitude towards Sophie and Bee, and Greg is apparently a war veteran with a backpack full of possible weapons. As this TikTok Scooby Doo gang turns on each member the film really shines and delivers some of its funniest and biggest surprises. Lee Pace and Rachel Sennott deliver scene stealing performances that are destined to score big at the Spirit Awards next year. Seriously I can’t overstate how funny Sennott is and how nothing can prepare you for Pace’s sexy but delirious Greg.
If you are not caught up with the Generation Z lingo and behavior some of this may seem exhausting to you and its final moments may not have the exact payoff you’d expect. The film for only 90 minutes can feel both repetitive and limited at times, it greatly teeters the line between comical and full on eyerolls when they deliver lines such as “you’re triggering me” yes that is how kids today talk but selling it on screen takes a little more effort. Thankfully Bodies Bodies Bodies knows that friendship is universal regardless of generations. It succeeds by making you laugh at other’s pain but with the underlying realization that your own friend group would be a complete disaster in this same situation. Even if you survived the night would you ever want to see any of these people again? Or to make it more complex what will it take to finally move on from these “friends” and how many bodies will it cost.
Bodies Bodies Bodies premiered at SXSW Film Festival, it will be released by A24 this summer