"Bodies Bodies Bodies" has real bite as the slasher flick the TikTok generation deserves

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

If "Clue," "April Fool's Day," and "Heathers" were all in a text chain together, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” would be the biting, fiercely entertaining result, a slasher-style murder mystery that roasts the entitled TikTok generation to a mean, bloody crisp. A group of friends dying one by one is a classic stand-by in the horror sub-genre, but this time, it’s a semi-innocent party game between frenemies snowballing into a powder-keg situation. Perhaps Gen Z brings this scathing level of critique on itself.

Six-weeks-in-love girlfriends Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) head to the family mansion of Sophie’s oldest—and equally rich—friend David (Pete Davidson) for a debaucherous weekend hurricane party during an actual hurricane. Once the couple arrives, only Alice (Rachel Sennott) seems excited to see Sophie, even though Sophie swears she told the rich-kid gang she was coming in a text chain. Among the alleged friend group is Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), David's follower of a girlfriend; Sophie’s standoffish ex Jordan (Myha’la Herrold); and Alice’s laid-back older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace). Sophie is sober and recently out of rehab, but that doesn’t stop the rest of them from indulging and sneaking a bump. As the hurricane rages outside, Sophie decides they should play Bodies Bodies Bodies, a Mafia/Werewolf-style party game where one of them is the designated “killer” and the remaining players must guess who it is. Well, wouldn’t you know it, one of them might actually be a killer for real, and they're no safer inside than they would be outside. As the finger-pointing begins, everyone stops being polite and starts getting real with bottled-up resentments and true-color reveals.

Wickedly orchestrated by Dutch director Halina Reijn, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a brutally funny whodunit for this generation. The script by Sarah DeLappe (with a story credit by Kristen Roupenian) plays like a spiky and of-the-moment comedy of manners with a body count and satirically pointed digs at entitlement, virtue signaling, and false/toxic friendships. As if we are all outsiders like Bee, the film very efficiently sets up the history and dynamic between Sophie and her friend group before tearing them all down with backstabbing and skeletons that can’t be kept in the closet for long. The cast excels in keeping the party going and elevating these would-be types into real, distinct people with bravado and vulnerability. A lot is asked of this core cast of seven, acting despicably and suspiciously but not as a mere red herring to trick the audience, and there isn’t a weak link among them. As Sophie and Bee, Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova (2020's "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm") keep us guessing about each of their own characters and the secrets they keep. Pete Davidson is very funny as a self-proclaimed “fuckboy,” particularly making a repetitive exchange with Lee Pace’s eccentric himbo really sing. But if there’s one easy standout in the cast, it has to be Rachel Sennott, who should already be on everyone’s watchlist after 2021's wonderfully squirmy indie “Shiva Baby.” Being most skilled in improv, Sennott hilariously steals every moment with big personality and ace delivery as Alice, a “vapid and annoying” podcaster who will side with whomever she needs to in a given moment but also be quick to cast blame.

Setting the majority of the film at night, Rejin’s shooting style with cinematographer Jasper White is mostly effective. This will sound like major nitpicking, but even though the point is to keep the characters in the dark (literally), the lighting scheme with phone flashlights does not always allow for maximum tension when we can’t always see who is in relation to who. The use of glow necklaces is an inspired touch, though, for atmosphere, and the rave-ready soundtrack and a killer synth score by Disasterpiece (2015's “It Follows”) decidedly lend to the escalating tension. Another minor issue is the geography of the house, which isn’t initially clear when the characters are hiding, but the interiors are well-implemented into the action.

In “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” loaded words spoken by a so-called friend can hurt as much as a gunshot wound. Making her English-language feature debut, Halina Reijn knows exactly how to thread the needle between black-hearted laughs and actual danger. Even after the viewer’s own deduction of who could be making the bodies hit the floor exhausts itself and possibly absurd explanations dance in one’s head, the real answer is the right one, a clever punchline to so much viciousness. As long as the writing cuts as sharply as any kitchen implement and the cast couldn't be more perfectly chosen, this catty, coked-up Agatha Christie riff is proof that it’s still possible to put fresh spokes on an old wheel. Keeping in mind that your real friends probably don't suck this much, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is fun, fun, fun.

Grade: B

A24 is releasing “Bodies Bodies Bodies” (95 min.) in select theaters on August 5, 2022, followed by a nationwide release on August 12, 2022.