Could it be that we’re entering a new, golden age of slasher movies – there’s certainly enough proof to suggest it as 2022 has already seen the release of a typically sharp tongued fifth Scream movie, not to mention Ti West’s deliriously awsome X. But where slashers are usually known for how much brains they don’t display, this new breed seems to have far more to say about capricious youth rather than simply troting out the same old sex = death tropes time and again (even though sex is most definitely still on the table).
The latest evidence of this is Bodies Bodies Bodies, a movie that hopes to keep that shrewd, knowing thread going by subverting some of the basic aspects of a good, slasher/whodunit when concerning the likability of a cast primed to fall before various sharp implements. Simply put, a slasher flick usually has you rooting against the victims simply due to poor characterizations, but what happens when you’re supposed to dislike the core cast because they’re simply just hideous specimens of people?
Newly minted young couple – the wealthy, recently sober Sophie and her working class, Eastern European girlfriend, Bee – arrive at the sizable abode of Sophie’s childhood friend and fellow rich kid, David, to celebrate the coming of a hurricane with a party. Joining them is a clutch of their childhood buddies such as David’s actress girlfriend Emma, brooding Jordan, podcaster Alice and her “boyfriend” Greg who noticably looks north of forty and considering no one knew that Sophie would be showing up, let alone with a new girlfriend in tow, tensions are in the air almost immediately. Not that that’s anything new with this group as they all turn out to be horrendously vapid examples of humanity born from a culture of endless parties, soul crushingly repetitive Tiktoks and a seemingly never ending supply of drugs and wealth that none of them have ever had to work for and it soon becomes apparent that a deep vein of poisonous resentment bubbles just under the surface. David obviously can’t stand newcomer Greg and isn’t shy of showing it while Jordan stalks and glares at the other newbie, Bee, like a jungle cat advancing on her prey and as the night goes on, it seems this universal love/hate thing this group has going on seems to lost the love somewhere across the way.
But then the hurricane hits and a suggestion goes out that they all play Bodies Bodies Bodies, a murder mystery game that requires them to shut off all the lights while one of their number secretly plays the killer and “kill” a fellow player while everyone has to guess who did the deed. At the best of times this game apparently causes this terminally self obsessed bunch to fall out, but when one of their number actually turns up dead, every petty grievance, every hint of jealousy and every twitch of paranoia erupts to the forefront as this group of besties violently falls apart in record time.
Despite what I claimed at the top of this review, in many ways Halina Rejin’s sublimely spiteful Bodies Bodies Bodies is actually something of an “anti-slasher” that smartly uses the temperament of a gaggle of entitled youths to exchange the traits we usually see in flicks like this for far more plausible examples. For example, while the slice and dice movies of old would have the potential victims do stupid things regardless of how dumb they were simply just to manuever them into place, Rejin has her band of toxic twentysomethings continuously put themselves in dire peril because their sense of selfish entitlement is off the fucking scale as they rant, complain, gaslight, accuse and flat out shit-stir for no other reason other than they simply want to be heard, no matter the consequences.
It’s a fascinating experience to watch a movie lean so far into the negative aspects of rich, Gen-Z culture and yet somehow manages to remain so gleefully watchable as the director walks an incredibly slippery slope. I mean, I guess you start the movie rooting for Maria Bakalova’s shy outsider, but by the midway point, even she has been caught up in the hysterical paranoia that buffets the cast as hard as the hurricane winds batter the house from the outside. “They’re not as nihilistic as they look on the internet.” claims Sophie at the start: yeah no shit, they’re worse.
The cast are all on point and impressively, the movie doesn’t allow them to devolve into grotesquely exaggerated caricatures which gives the movie a sense of realism and its satire far more bite than if the characters suddenly became monstrous, self absorbed cartoons. Bakalova and The Hate U Give’s Anandla Stenberg do a great job of being the only ones present that are even remotely likable before the sheer weight of paranoia, drugs and alcohol make them as petty and vicious as everybody else and Pete Davidson snags some great laughs as the arrogant, brattish, fuck-happy muppet he seems to be repeatedly cast as (“I look like I fuck and that’s the vibe I like to put off.”). Lee Pace swans around as the fortysomething odd man out, as much as an ineffectual man-child as the group he’s latched onto like an ungracefully aging limpet and Myha’la Herrold and Chase Sui Wonders also bring their A game and the pathologicaly spiteful Jordan and the self obsessed Emma (“Oh my God, can we not make this about you?”). However, its Rachel Sennott’s whining, pointless podcaster that’ll really have you gritting your teeth in fabulous annoyance as she unleashes people’s secrets in the form of passive aggressive bile in all directions while clumsily covering her arse with a lame “What? It’s a good thing.” whenever she gets reprimanded and is so self absorbed she genuinely can’t (or won’t) make the connection that the strange forty year old that she’s only known for two weeks could actually be the culprit.
It would be easy for Rejin to disappear behind her vitriolic characters, but the director gives the film a nicely eerie visual stamp by having most of the movie lit almost exclusively by the sickly glow of numerous phone screens once the power goes out and the insecurities come to the forefront, looking to party.
Mean, vicious and wickedly funny, Bodies Bodies Bodies may devolve a little into too much panicked wandering in its final act, but its darkly hilarious denouement may actually be one of the greatest moments of 2022 that ruthlessly proves that a possible killer, lurking unseen in the dark may be creepy, but that’s nothing compared to the damage a bunch of narcissistic twentysomethings can do when the wi-fi goes down and they have to live their lives without a filter.