REVIEWS: Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

A group wealthy, social media-addicted twentysomethings assemble at a countryside mansion for a ‘hurricane party’, during which they decide to play “Bodies Bodies Bodies”, a murder-in-the-park style party game. As they play, secrets between them begin to be revealed, and the murders begin for real.

A quick glance at 2022 slasher flick Bodies Bodies Bodies does not make a good impression. Ill-considered parties in country mansions have been the setting for this kind of violent thriller more times than it would be reasonably to count, as have the relatively anonymous casts engaging in drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and having sex. These characters are generally pretty thinly drawn as well; they have to be, since the narrative of the slasher dictates they are going to be violently dispatched one by one until their killer is revealed. It is worth persevering with the film, however, as it seems so generic for good reason. It needs to present these stereotypes in order to play with them how it does. It is written by Sarah DeLappe from a story by Kristen Roupenian, and directed by Halina Reijn (whose feature debut Instinct was the Netherlands’ 2019 submission for the Best International Feature Oscar). They have done a wonderfully creative and clever job here.

It is not possible to explain why Bodies Bodies Bodies succeeds in the manner that it does, as part of the pleasure is in seeing this particularly creative take on the clichés emerge. Something that does not ruin the surprise for viewers, since it is an element that is immediately apparent, is how the script, direction, and performances present a savagely satirical take on modern-day wealthy elites. These are trust fund kids low on responsibility, addicted to TikTok and podcasts, and dreadfully insincere and untrustworthy around one another. When the power cuts out, and one of the friends is found dead, they seem as much upset by the lack of wi-fi as the possibility of being murdered. Watching them try to cope with this unfolding And Then There We None set-up is like watching The Lord of the Flies populated by a cast of narcissistic incompetents.

Jasper Wolf’s photography adds an outstanding level of mood and atmosphere. With the power cut, and a raging storm outside, most of the action is lit by smartphones and glow-in-the-target jewelry. It may be funny, but it is tense as well. The same plaudits are due to the musical score by solo artist Disasterpiece (It Follows), which eerily echoes the sounds of smartphone ringtones among the creepy electronica.

It is a strong group of actors who work this comedic murder frenzy for all its worth. Maria Bakalova plays the effective viewpoint character: an Eastern European international student dragged to the party by her rich new girlfriend Sophie (Amandla Stenberg). Sophie is headed to the party for her own reasons, which irritates the host David (SNL comic Pete Davidson, cast perfectly to type). Two highlights are Rachel Sennott – so brilliant in Shiva Baby – as naive podcaster Alice, and Lee Pace as her mysterious new boyfriend Greg. He is a perfectly created rendition of that young party standard: the slightly creepy man, two decades older than everyone else, who does not seem to have a good reason to be there. Along with Myha’la Herrold and Chase Sui Wonders, they are make for a talented and very entertaining ensemble.

Perhaps there is an argument that the Gen-Z parody and aggressively poor behaviour by the characters is all just window dressing – when all is said and done, Bodies Bodies Bodies is mostly replaying the same decades-old tropes with some timely redecoration and social commentary. It also forms part of a growing range of recent horror films and thrillers, all finding varying angles on the rich consuming the working places – it is notable that there is only one genuinely non-rich character in the film, and that is our viewpoint into the scenario. It is by no means a new angle – what is 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game if not the same trope? – but it seems to have been emerging rather frequently of late, as the gap between the world’s richest and poorest widens ever further.

This is a solid slasher film, elevated by some good social commentary and some truly biting moments of comedy. It’s a truly satisfying new outing for fans of the genre.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is available on DVD and for online purchase in Australia, and Bluray, DVD, and online in the USA.

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