Plunge a handful of tense, cashed-in narcissists into a house and carnage is virtually guaranteed.
Lena Dunham’s cult show Girls knew it well. In one of the show’s most memorable episodes, its central quartet retreats to a secluded beachside bungalow, seemingly to lick old wounds with some salty air.
What ensues, of course, is nothing short of a bloodbath. Secrets fall before the first drink is swallowed; resentment turns into all-out war. Every friendship leaves a little bruised.
That bloodbath becomes literal in Bodies Bodies Bodies, production studio A24’s latest addition to its celebrated canon of glamorous delinquents: a slasher that takes Dunham’s tried-and-true episode format and dials it down to levels beyond Richter. The rich are richer, the beards sharper.
The bungalow is now a gargantuan McMansion – the old silver type, with golden hallways and spiral staircases – and the characters are less likable than ever: loose-lipped slackers with egos as inflated as their trust funds.
This makes for delightful viewing.
Dutch actress-turned-director Halina Reijn – directing her first feature film in English here – gives us just a moment of serenity before a 90-minute onslaught of blood, guts and glow-in-the-dark bracelets.
We open with Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), fresh out of rehab, and her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova of Borat Next Movie) canoodling in a field so dewy and verdant it can only exist in a fairy tale. fairies. There are even birdsong in the distance.
How long will this happiness last?
About two minutes, as it turns out. He is interrupted by the incessant sound of iMessage notifications blaring as the beloved couple – who have been together for six weeks – prepare for the getaway ahead.
“They’re not as nihilistic as they seem on the internet,” Sophie tells an unconvinced bee, who peers worriedly into the social feeds of everyone she’s about to meet.
Her fears are barely allayed when she confronts them in person: a menagerie of wealthy, non-celebrity played by – thanks to A24’s classic and shrewd casting – Hollywood’s bright youngsters, each snatched from breakout roles buzzing and overall billing.
There’s Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby) as melodramatic, raucous podcaster Alice, Chase Sui Wonders (Generation) as budding actor Emma, and Myha’la Herrold (Industry) as cunning agitator Jordan – who, to complicate matters, could well be an old flame of Sophie.
Not to mention the spectacle of pals and hangers, including Pete Davidson essentially caricaturing himself, a lanky sleazeball filled with machismo, and the hulking Lee Pace as an incredibly Adonic anomaly amidst those jittery 20s.
Into the lion’s den drops Bee, armed with a healthy dose of wariness and a loaf of zucchini bread – an offering received with sideways glances and gaping looks.
But Reijn doesn’t rest too long on introductions. There’s no time to waste, after all, when a hurricane is fast approaching, effectively confining them to Cluedo Mansion.
Jabs are thick and fast like rain. “I love the podcast!” Sophie calls Alice – in a tone that implies she hates the podcast.
As night falls, they are overwhelmed by a simmering tension that threatens to boil over. Call it cabin fever, or just the side effect of a decaying friendship bound together by little more than a shared history.
The nerves are amplified by an unavoidable part of the titular game – this group’s version of what’s better known as Mafia or Werewolf, where a secretly assigned killer walks around claiming unlucky victims, before everyone else does. gathers to charge a suspect.
It doesn’t take a detective to figure out what happens next. Someone winds up (actually) dead, and as more and more bodies pile up, the paranoia mounts, a flurry of fingers pointing in all directions. Is there a murderer on the loose? And, more importantly: is it one of them?
Both Reijn and screenwriter Sarah DeLappe have stage training, and it shows: they trap their characters in an ever-shrinking bedroom space as the film’s once cavernous setting grows ever more suffocating. Betrayal and intrigue reign.
The camera breaks away in a beast of reckless abandon, sprinting and spinning through the claustrophobic bowels of the mansion with dizzying, sometimes nauseating effect. Often, Bodies Bodies Bodies renders its title well, with a blur of unidentifiable members all visible on screen.
To its credit, it’s a miracle we can see anything in a movie set mostly in darkness, especially given the recent outbreak of painfully low lighting and washed out spots in movies and the big budget television.
Bodysuits Bodysuits bucks the trend with campy hyper-stylization indebted – for better or worse – to teen hit Euphoria: bursts of saturated neon, mesh tops and pearl necklaces, and a soundtrack practically concocted in a lab for street cred, featuring pop provocateurs Charli XCX and Azealia Banks.
Much of its comedy also relies on the same pool of online chronicles. Its best – and blackest – one-liners belong to Sennott, whose spectacular bratitude draws on the sort of feverish jargon recognizable to anyone who’s spent too much time on Twitter. Murder is toxic, backstabbing is gaslighting, and death is the ultimate silence.
There are certainly choices — a plot point involving a viral TikTok song from 2020, for example, or one too many wi-fi jokes — that risk feeling dated, victims of the fashion cycle’s endless rolling. which makes anything longer than a week automatically geriatric.
The film, however, is too frenetic to drag out an isolated misfire. Its scattered approach works in its favor, as does its utter and utter amorality: not a grumpy technophobic parable lamenting the woes of social media à la Black Mirror, or a condescending satire of Gen Z, but a character study of terrible people who feel too familiar – with a few corpses in tow.
Like the hedonistic pleasure of listening to other people’s gossip, one cannot help but submit to its delirium.
And when all is said and done, we might find ourselves experiencing the most elusive feeling in cinema: pleasure.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is currently in theaters.