In times of crisis, you learn who your real friends are and who to keep at arm’s length. Throw in a hurricane-induced blackout and a messed-up game reminiscent of Mafia or Werewolf, and you got a recipe for chaos and tension. All of this and more are experienced in Halina Reijn‘s BODIES BODIES BODIES. Not afraid to get mean and make the audience uncomfortable, this murder mystery reminds us that sometimes our closest friends are also our worst enemies.
Written by Kristen Roupenian, Sarah Delappe, Chloe Okuno, Joshua Sharp, and Aaron Jackson, the film wastes no time establishing the tense dynamics between its characters. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) are heading out head out to David’s (Pete Davidson) secluded family mansion for a hurricane party. Unfortunately, Sophie’s appearance draws mixed emotions from everyone in attendance. Right off the back, the seeds are planted for madness later.
Before the hurricane hits, the drugs come out and the gang of (mostly) 20-somethings cut loose. In this time, we pick up bits and pieces on the character relationships. David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) has some drama with David and gloms onto other people’s opinions. Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) has big murder energy (not a spoiler, but they can very much cut someone with just their gaze). It’s immediately clear Jordan does not like Bee. Serving as the best comedy relief the film has to offer is Alice (Rachel Sennott), who has brought her older boyfriend/sexy buddy Greg (Lee Pace) as her plus one.
Eventually, things wind down. This can only mean one thing. Game time! If you were wondering why the heck this group was friends to begin with, this section of the film will do little to help here. The undercurrent of cattiness and cruelty is needed to make the execution – no pun intended – flow here. Eventually, a new game is posed – ‘bodies bodies bodies’. It’s similar to Mafia or Werewolf. One person is selected to be the murderer and it is up to the group to track down who it is. If they fail to figure it out before everyone dies, well, they lose! It’s all fun and games, though, until someone at the party actually turns up dead. Then it becomes a race against time before the group’s tenuous trust in one another completely falls apart.
Because of the dubious nature of each character, the mystery deepens naturally. The killer could literally be anyone thanks in part to the work done by everyone leading up to the first body drop. Everyone we encounter onscreen has secrets and is capable of backstabbing. In the hands of a less capable cast, this gang of unlikeable characters would be impossible to care for. There are subtleties in the performances that make the bulk of the characters tolerable enough to not immediately hope for swift demises.
Two actors, though, provide much-needed light in the midst of the constantly escalating hysteria that grips the group. Maria Bakalova’s Bee clearly represents the audience’s gaze, but also some level of innocence in this group’s world. She matches our growing levels of shock as we watch the group dynamics fall apart at the seams. But, she’s no shrinking violet. The character of Bee is more than capable of surviving what the group throws at her. Rachel Sennott’s Alice also provides much-needed levity and provides a focal point for the audience to project their frustrations onto. You’ll love to hate her at certain points, but Sennott’s command of comedy softens the character’s otherwise vexing edges.
The horror here is more in how horrendously toxic the dynamic is between all of these would-be friends than the actual kills. There is a reveling in the barbs and underhanded comments they can sling at each other. Their interactions seem more like a lesson in tolerance than anything else. Much like Bee, the audience can only look on wide-eyed at how this group rapidly devolves and turns on one another. The only source of authenticity and goodness seems to come from Bee and Greg. Even then, there’s enough planted to remind us that they too aren’t as good as we think.
BODIES BODIES BODIES features a great twist. However, it’s hard to say if this twist negates the re-watchability factor of the film. That all said, this film has a lot to say. In a world designed around reactions over actual introspection and thought, this scenario becomes all the more realistic when compared to what goes on offscreen today. For many, what’s presented will hit home. It’s made all the easier to digest when using this gang of toxic fake friends as our guide. Some may call it mean-spirited, but the meanness is a reflection of how some interact today, especially when friendships are more surface-level than we may think.
The production team makes great use of this singular location. While obviously a large residence, the usage of lighting, especially once the blackout hits, helps create a necessary claustrophobia to heighten the senses. Knowing that the actors lit themselves adds an extra layer to the performances that might have been missing if the lighting was done differently. Cinematographer Jasper Wolf’s camera misses nothing in the darkness, capturing every nuance reflected on the actors’ faces. The music design from Disasterpeace is chockablock full of needle drops that aren’t just there for funsies. A lot of the song choices provide insight into the minds of certain characters and also help to guide the audience through the film’s shifting tones.
It can be an uncomfortable watch, even in the midst of the humor that’s interwoven in the dialogue. These characters won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But thanks to the chemistry of the cast and delivery, you can’t help but be glued to the screen. Some of the characters you’ll root for their demise. Others, you’ll want to be spared, even while the odds are set against them. Throw in the fact that anyone can easily be the killer from this group, and you have the recipe for a strong murder mystery that will leave viewers guessing in BODIES BODIES BODIES.
BODIES BODIES BODIES will have a limited release theatrically on August 5, 2022, before being released nationwide on August 12, 2022.