Chicago - Editor's note: This review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2022 South By Southwest Film Festival on March 30, 2022. It has been expanded and republished in light of the film's debut in theaters.
"Socially-conscious" has become the new buzzword in horror filmmaking lately, but Dutch director Halina Reijn’s deliciously dark slasher comedy "Bodies Bodies Bodies" is a slightly new take on the formula: It’s socially relevant without exactly being social commentary.
More observational than satirical (although there’s plenty of the latter too), "Bodies Bodies Bodies" aims to capture how a certain class of young people live and act today, as a group of privileged friends gather at a remote mansion to wait out a hurricane with a drunken bacchanal.
There’s recently sober Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and her sweetly naive new girlfriend Bee ("Borat 2" breakout Maria Bakalova), who serves as our point-of-view character as she peers into this debaucherous world of wealth. Pete Davidson is the charismatic scumbum who’s hosting the party. Lee Pace is a much older boyfriend who’s been brought along for the ride. And Myha'la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders and "Shiva Baby" star Rachel Sennott round out the friend group, which looks chummy from the outside but has its own complicated hierarchies and jealousies embedded within.
Those simmering tensions reach a full-on boiling point when a round of the titular murder mystery party game (also known as Mafia or Werewolf) turns unexpectedly deadly. Now that there’s a real body, who could the killer be?
WATCH FREE ON TUBI: Pete Davidson lends his voice to the stoner comedy "The Freak Brothers"
"Bodies Bodies Bodies": A gnarly whodunit
The fun of this gnarly whodunit comes from how the Gen Z characters bounce off one another over petty squabbles and self-absorbed concerns, both before and after the bodies start piling up. The characters weaponize social justice terminology as easily as they snort up lines of coke, and the film’s jokes about podcasts and group chats feel pointed but never mean-spirited; we’re laughing with these characters as much as we’re laughing at them.
Indeed, the fiendishly clever script by Sarah DeLappe manages to touch on themes of gender, class, age, addiction, sexuality and trauma without ever feeling performative or even overt about its themes. And the talented young cast add just enough dimension to humanize the various archetypes they’re playing. (Sennott is a particular standout.)
To use the word of the moment: Above all, Reijn succeeds at creating a vibe — lighting the film with glow sticks and phone flashlights once the power goes out, and juxtaposing the elegant mansion setting with the grungy aesthetic of entitled, inebriated 20-somethings. The acidic humor of "Bodies Bodies Bodies" is fueled by a very specific brand of Gen Z paranoia and exaggeration, which Reijn smartly depicts as a swirling hurricane of its own.
While "Bodies Bodies Bodies" has some things to say about modern culture, it’s mostly just here to have a good time. And its plentiful surprises are particularly fun to experience alongside an engaged audience ready to laugh and scream at each twist and turn. If "Bodies Bodies Bodies" doesn’t reinvent the slasher genre, it gives it a refreshingly contemporary sense of bite — one that will appeal to horror and dark comedy fans alike.
Make it a double feature with "Obsessed to Death," streaming free on Tubi
Obsessed to Death (2022): "The actors know it’s ridiculous, but the characters don’t," star Holland Roden explained to FOX Television Stations of her leading role in this twisted thriller. The former "Teen Wolf" star plays Cassie, a quiet young woman who’s ghosted by her new boyfriend Austin (Colton Royce) for popular cycling instructor Summer (Kathryn Kohut). Soon enough, however, Cassie worms her way into Summer’s fitness empire and starts to reinvent herself "spin class by spin class and lie by lie." But when fellow cyclist Gage (Jesse Reynolds) notices something is off, Cassie’s obsession with Summer turns violent. "Obsessed to Death" is a Tubi Original. Rated TV-14. 89 minutes. Dir: Stefan Brogren. Also featuring Beverly Cheng, Bradley Hamilton.
How to watch "Bodies Bodies Bodies"
"Bodies Bodies Bodies" arrives in select theaters on Aug. 5. and opens nationwide on Aug. 12. It is not currently available to stream.
About the writer: Caroline Siede is a film and TV critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, she spent four years lovingly analyzing the romantic comedy genre one film at a time in her column When Romance Met Comedy for The A.V. Club. She also co-hosts the movie podcast, Role Calling, and shares her pop culture opinions on Twitter (@carolinesiede).
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