2022 has been an awesome year for slashers. You had the “requel” Scream, Ti West’s X (with a prequel coming out this fall), and now, Bodies Bodies Bodies. A slasher-comedy about a party game that goes too far — kind of like Ready or Not — Bodies Bodies Bodies (simplified to Bodies for this review going forward except for references to the game itself) puts a millennial twist on the slasher genre. The film is not just a slasher-comedy, however, it sets out to and effectively satirizes the digital age and the relationships of a Gen Z friend group. With a charismatic cast, great blocking, and a bold ending that lands (a rarity these days), Bodies is the best slasher film of the year and one of the best original horror films in recent years that’ll make for great rewatching and a magical theatrical experience.
The basic premise of Bodies is that a group of wealthy friends all gather for a house party during a hurricane. During the night, the group decides to play a game called, you guessed it, “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” which is akin to a real-life Among Us. After a shot and a slap across the face, each player makes their way around the dark house (all of the lights are out). When a person is found “dead,” the remaining players hold a council of sorts and determine who they think is the killer.
You can sense some hesitancy from certain characters to play the game, as it’s said to always cause fights between this group of friends, but alas, the group plays. But once the game is underway, someone is found to actually be dead, kicking off the film’s mystery as the group has to figure out who the real-life murderer is.
For background, amongst this group of friends you have David (Pete Davidson), the host of the party; Sophie (Amanda Stenberg) who’s recently out of rehab and hasn’t seen the group in a while; her girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova); podcast host and ally Alice (Rachel Sennett); her boyfriend (who’s much older than the rest) Greg (Lee Pace); David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders); and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold).
I must say, within this friend group, you have the dynamics that most friend groups, but specifically social media-crazed Gen Z’ers, face. You have the typical gaslighting, talking shit behind others’ backs, and an overall dynamic that simply keeps everyone’s head on a swivel. When shit hits the fan and all of the airing of dirty laundry occurs, you see people’s true colors and feelings. The backtracking that some characters attempt to do is even better than them being exposed in the first place. Maybe your friend group is perfectly fine and no one has issues. However, more likely than not, you’ve seen the same dynamics in the on-screen friend group on your own, whether you’d like to admit it or not.
Someone that I know who is a well-renowned critic stated that all of the characters were unlikable and thus made it hard to connect and root for any of them. I think that this is a fair criticism to some degree; I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable, but I also don’t find many of my fellow Gen Z’ers very likable, either, and would rather spend my time eating with earbuds in than talking to almost anybody from my college. And to that end, I enjoyed the way that the film portrays my generation. Sure, it’s a borderline burlesque satire, but the way that one character talks about her being an “ally,” using mental health as an excuse, an argument over the difference between “memoirs” and “creative fiction,” how two weeks is a “long time” in a relationship, and the way that they all handle their conflicts all ring true to a typical night in a college dorm building.
So yes, I concede that some of the characters are not exactly “relatable” — or likable, for that matter —but I think that what your expectations are for Bodies can play a part in how you view the characters. I wouldn’t necessarily call Bodies a melodrama where there’s a clear representative of good and evil; there’s not a Jason Voorhees here to hack his way through indistinguishable teenagers that we, the audience, shouldn’t care about. In turn, you have a friend group that you’re slowly uncovering more about. Certain actions or things said may impact your perception, but at the end of the day, it’s still a murder mystery (think Knives Out-meets-Scream).
The only place where some of the satirizations don’t fully land is in the script. The performances are solid all around, but it occasionally felt clear that a Google search of the Gen Z verbiage was used during the research process of the film. There are some terms shoehorned into the film that felt forced for the sake of my generation recognizing it. It’s sort of like that weird uncle at family gatherings who’s still convinced Nirvanna is cool to the younger generation. And I’m not trying to nitpick the script — much of it is passable — the usage of the word “triggered” was, well, triggering and by far the most egregious example of a shoehorned term in the script. In the heat of an argument, as a character is losing an argument and is against the ropes, desperately trying to think of anything to say in return, she states “you trigger me” to another. Perhaps this doesn’t appear that bad to anyone over the age of 30, but I don’t think that term has been used unironically in my friend circles for what feels like ages.
Adding to the claustrophobia that a game like “Bodies Bodies Bodies” will already inflict, the blocking of the film further enhances the claustrophobia of what’s occurring on screen. 98% of the film takes place in David’s house with the other 2% being the opening sequence that shows Sophie and Bee’s first “I love you” moment in their relationship. From that opening scene on, the film never leaves the palace that is David’s house. This palace that David calls home probably could have been utilized even further if the runtime had permitted, but I’ll take what I got. So much of the film takes place in the pitch-black dark — the power seemingly goes out after wrapping up their game — as the characters are slowly making their way down the vast and empty halls. You’ll constantly be waiting for something to pop out of the darkness, and sometimes you’ll be right, other times you won’t. All of this makes for a wonderful theatrical experience where everyone will be on edge.
Admittedly, it’s very difficult to talk about films like Bodies without spoiling anything; hence the lack of specificity when talking about certain characters. That said, there are a few standouts from the cast. Amandla Stenberg has a real intensity to her that is palpable whenever she graces the screen. Rachel Sennott — the lead in the amazing Shiva Baby — is great as well with the material given to her. Her performance doesn’t quite match the one given in Shiva Baby, but she’s one of the funniest characters here. Maria Bakalova has a lot of time to shine as the group’s outsider, and she portrays that innocence so well but does have a slight edge. Pete Davidson was a bit of an odd casting all things considered. He’s fine as David, though there’s nothing that Davidson does here that he hasn’t done already. It’s also frustrating that he’s half a character. The 95-minute runtime doesn’t allow more time to explain the previous night’s events which include a conflict between David and another character. There’s a huge falling out that we only get the audio version of — a Cliffnotes edition, at that — and seeing it would’ve enhanced the film even further by adding one more suspect to the fray.
The ending of Bodies will surely be divisive. Some, like myself, will find it fulfilling and appropriate when considering the Gen Z characters in the film. I had one theory from roughly the first 10 minutes onward and stuck with it until the end. All I’ll say is that I was wrong, but I couldn’t be happier about that. My prediction seemed telegraphed from the start while the actual ending is actually quite simple. More than anything, it’s definitive; and I love that.
I’m such a sucker for original horror films — especially comedies — that put a twist on a familiar genre. In the case of Bodies, it takes the house party drinking games to a new level, implementing a mystery that can best be described as Knives Out-meets-Scream that is full of jealousy, friends falling out, and paranoia like no other. But in case you ever find yourself playing a game like “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and are being accused of murder, remember what Lee Pace says in Bodies: “The best defense is good offense.”
A24 will release Bodies Bodies Bodies in select theaters on August 5 and nationwide on August 12.