Bodies Bodies Bodies, 2022.
Directed by Halina Reijn.
Starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Lee Pace, and Conner O’Malley.
When a group of rich 20-somethings plan a hurricane party at a remote family mansion, a party game turns deadly in this fresh and funny look at backstabbing, fake friends, and one party gone very, very wrong.
The spoiled rotten generation-Z hurricane partiers at the center of Bodies Bodies Bodies are unlikeable, but that’s precisely the point. Wrapped up in their vanity, narcissism, privilege, miscommunications, backstabbing, and toxic relationships (that consistently invite jealousy towards one another), these characters are, however, magnetic and charismatic, played by a lively, raucous ensemble comprised of rising talents that will, hopefully, go on to receive more juicy roles and encourage viewers to check out their other performances.
Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, most are known for The Hate U Give) is a recovering cocaine addict, now seemingly stable, affectionate, and touchy towards her somewhat shy and introverted new girlfriend Bee (Borat 2 breakout, Maria Bakalova). A group chat that Sophie still stalks mentions a get-together at horny gaslighter David’s (Pete Davidson once again sliding right into the obnoxious doofus role) remote mansion, which Sophie decides is the right time to show up unannounced with Bee and introduce her to the besties.
Also present at this hurricane party (it’s exactly what it sounds like; wealthy youngsters throwing a rager during a storm with reckless abandon) is the vapid Alice (a scene-stealing Rachel Sennott with impeccable punchline delivery, who is an incredible relatively fresh talent that should have her previous works, Shiva Baby and Tahara sought out) and her G.I. Joe boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace, playing the character more like a laid-back pacifist than someone that fought for their country, although there is a clever reason for that), David’s current actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), and Sophie’s close friend Jordan (Myha’la Herrold).
Throughout all the pill-popping, smoking, sexual tension, and alpha behavior (someone uncorks a champagne bottle using a blade), the friends decide to play the titular game Bodies Bodies Bodies. Whether or not screenwriter Sarah DeLappe (with Kristen Roupenian receiving a story credit) and director Halina Reijn are familiar with viral PC game sensation Among Us (considering that the film is a satire on generation-Z culture, it’s reasonable to assume that their fingers on the pulse when it comes to the latest gaming fads), that’s what the party game resembles down to a T. Of course, the game has also been played in person for years as Werewolf and Mafia, but something about the emergence of Among Us‘ popularity extends a greater pop culture significance to the film’s concept.
Players draw pieces of scratch paper with one of them marked “X,” indicating that they are the killer. With the lights out, the killer must go around trying to murder everyone by sneaking up from behind and tapping another player on the shoulder. When that happens, the deceased shouts, “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” The lights come back on, and everyone reconvenes, attempting to figure out which one of them is the killer. For those unfamiliar with Among Us, that game goes by the same rules aside from being played on a spaceship where characters are cartoonish astronauts in different colored suits.
Now, as soon as this game is suggested during the hurricane party, it’s immediately made known that, in combination with no electricity and Internet, the deceptive nature of the game and competitive spirit brings out ugly sides to these people; they say things they regret and are prone to make each other cry. This is so common with the game that one of their other friends, Max, left the mansion the previous night. With that said, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s not long before someone comments one couple is lacking in the intimacy department, which sets off anger in the boyfriend.
Soon after, someone dies for real, setting off a chain of events that forces these toxic individuals to come to terms with their flaws and how they hurt one another. Often, it’s done through black comedy (the punchline to the entire movie is simultaneously absurd and believable while also completely and scathingly smart) and turning on one another like rapidly changing weather.
In particular, Rachel Sennott nails the shallow Alice (there’s a body dysmorphia joke that slays because she is the one delivering it); Maria Bakalova impresses as the closest thing to a likable character here, unfamiliar with the group and hard to pin down as someone with ulterior motives or innocent; Amandla Stenberg shines as someone still potentially troubled by her past and dating habits. There’s also a refreshing dynamic in that one of these characters does kill another on-screen in self-defense, adding another layer to the mystery aspect.
And while Bodies Bodies Bodies doesn’t always hit its targets with grace (the third act feels like it’s trying to accomplish too much), it’s a minute-for-minute absorbingly-entertaining. It’s a film that’s as much a blast to watch as it looks like it was to shoot. Most pleasantly, it’s also a whodunit with an ending reveal that provokes further discussion of everything that comes before, casting a new perception on this long night. It’s less about the grand reveal (which are still unquestionably memorable and a terrific moment for multiple reasons) and more about expanding on the themes. That makes up for a set of characters that could use more depth and first-act interactions. There is no weak link among the cast in this uproariously and darkly fun generation-Z satire by way of Among Us.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com