Gen Z Satire scores on gore, laughs, and more
Nothing ruins a weekend getaway with longtime friends at an isolated, if fully stocked, mansion like a body hitting the floor. It gets even worse when a second and then a third body join the first body on an increasingly crowded floor. That’s the slightly significant problem facing a group of venal, self-entitled, smug twenty-something Gen Z’ers in Dutch-born director Halina Reijn’s (Instinct) second feature-length film, Bodies Bodies Bodies, a savagely hilarious satire of the aforementioned Gen Z’ers and their obsessive preoccupation with personal branding, socially mediated living, and casual, responsibility- and consequence-free hedonism.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, a limb, or even their lives at the hands of an unseen killer stalking the group during a power- and cell phone-disrupting hurricane that turns a country estate owned not by David (SNL veteran Pete Davidson), like his inner circle of so-called friends, the beneficiary of an incredible amount of biological luck (i.e., wealthy parental units), but his perpetually absent parents. While he indulges his impulses for various legal and illegal substances, his long-term girlfriend, Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), looks on passively, seemingly content to be a secondary part of his life and that of their mutual friends, including Alice (Rachel Sennott, Shiva Baby), a supremely shallow podcaster-wannabe, Alice’s latest/newest romantic partner, Greg (Lee Pace), Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), the angry, militant daughter of college academics with a personal grudge apparently against everyone.
While far from stable, the group gets a potentially fatal shakeup when David’s longtime best friend, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), arrives unannounced with her latest girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova), a foreign exchange student obviously out of her element and/or depth. Their joint appearance at David’s house sends Jordan into a not entirely unjustified rage fueled by her broken relationship with Sophie. For her part, Sophie’s self-destructiveness, once limited to copious substance abuse and rehab, now extends to often petty, passive-aggressive behavior deliberately meant to agitate, frustrate, and anger her friends, all to get a rise out of them and, more importantly, keep Sophie at the center of the conversation.
As a literal and virtual outsider, Bee functions as the central viewpoint character in Bodies Bodies Bodies. From a run of the massive, labyrinthine house to the complexities, contradictions, and vagaries of the various relationships inside the house. A seemingly harmless murder-mystery game of “bodies bodies bodies” leads to even more friction inside the group. Bee soon discovers firsthand that the group’s resentments, jealousies, and doubts threaten to break apart the group long before the first blood-soaked body makes an appearance in the middle of a hurricane.
With no real way out and cell service down (for once, a logical, if still cliched development), the survivors are in for a long night of their individual and collective souls, if, of course, they survive that long. As the body count increases, fragile relationships fracture, sometimes irrevocably, accusations of guilt or complicity becomes more strident, and the group discover, possibly too late, that they might be their own worst enemies, regardless of whether there’s a killer or killers at large, stalking and killing them Agatha Christie-style.
With a compact, taut running time, a screw-turning screenplay from Sarah DeLappe (from a story co-credited to Kristen “Cat Person” Roupenian), Bodies Bodies Bodies delivers a steady stream of periodic, surface-deep thrills, modest amounts of realistic-looking blood and gore, and enough angsty stalking around an unlit mansion with a cell phone camera to light three or four films modeled on the century-old “old dark house” template. Add to that a game cast who, one and all, understand the assignment, giving pitch-perfect, caricature-free performances, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a better way to spend two-hours (or less) at a local, air-conditioned multiplex.
Bodies Bodies Bodies opens on Friday, August 5th, in New York and Los Angeles, and the greater United States America on Friday, August 12th.