A string of murders with punchlines wrapped in is not necessarily an easy place for a movie to start from. It can often be wildly ridiculous or unintentionally laughable – but over the years there’s been few examples that bring in pools of blood for the horror fans alongside funny and entertaining satire. Thematically, A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies finds itself in the gutsy sweet spot found by beloved movies like 1988’s Heathers and 1996’s Scream. Like these films, director Halina Reijn’s very thrilling, funny film points the knife at youthful angst and twists around slasher tropes, but this time there’s a new generation to call out. It’s brutal, but so, so gratifying.
Bodies Bodies Bodies starts with Amandla Stenberg’s Sophie confessing her blossoming love for Maria Bakalova’s Bee during a pitstop in some greenery before they head back in the car to a house party where Bee is set to meet Sophie’s childhood (and presumably very rich) friends for the first time. When they reach the house, it’s a stunning mansion featuring a massive pool. They don’t chill outdoors for long as a brewing storm forces the partygoers inside. Amidst shots, lines, edibles, and glow necklaces, they decide to play a party game they’ve played many times before: Bodies Bodies Bodies.
Bodies Bodies Bodies plays a fun game with tone that brings fresh energy to the horror genre.
The best part about Bodies Bodies Bodies is that the titular game is one you experience in the same way as the plot of the movie itself. As the party (comprised of characters played by Pete Davidson, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Myha’la Herrold and Lee Pace) play the fake murder game, things start to get heated fast – arguments ensue, nerves are struck; these friends have clearly known each other for all their lives and the complicated history is palpable in the room. Things really heat up when an actual dead body is found and while being stuck in a mansion together. So, while they are high, drunk and triggered by each other, they have to play the whodunnit game with real victims.
The way Bodies Bodies Bodies plays is interesting, because it starts you off in a really grounded place that doesn’t necessarily set it up as a comedy. It’s playful, but there’s an edge and tension about its first steps that has its audience really leaning in and trying to figure out where it’s all going. Right when it pulls you into a comfort zone, it rattles you with the real hook as its first victim appears, and from there it doesn’t look back for a single second to make sure you’re paying attention.
It’s immersive in a sense that the viewer is pushed survival mode, asking the same questions as its characters and pulling you into the whirlwind rollercoaster ride of a slasher the movie quickly becomes. Within its tight 95 minutes, it is not only very careful in which corners it creates fear and suspense; there’s also a really steady hand on the balance between its horrific, hilarious and dramatic elements. It’s dizzying, but intricate and intentional with how it turns you around.
Amandla Stenberg finally gets another chance to shine, alongside a memorable ensemble.
Within the fun and violent daze the movie takes you through, Amandla Stenberg gets a chance to confidently lead a film for the first time since 2018’s powerful The Hate U Give. In Bodies Bodies Bodies, Stenberg owns that place in the film with an effortless, cool character. She’s not the only one. The movie manages to steer away from the typical boxes ensembles check off not only in slashers, but for whodunnits, which often set up an ensemble as either suspects or brush-offs. This only strengthens the film’s lasting effect.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is grounded in the sense that its characters feel like real people instead of pawns in the game. Since audiences are thrust into the party as Sophie and Bee arrive at least a day late, there’s an organic element of the viewer having to make their own assumptions about each character with very little information and not much time to mull it over. A particular standout in the ensemble is Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott as Alice, who often pulls back the tension by gaining some of the biggest laughs among the mansion’s bunch in the in-between moments.
It’s gutsy enough to become another A24 hit.
Bodies Bodies Bodies finds a way to speak to, call out and laugh at a generation that is constantly throwing out mental health phrases in times of distress, leaning into TikTok trends with a bent specifically aimed at a group of privileged Gen Zers. As the movie reveals itself, its characters are exposing a variety of problems with growing up in the social media age within the framework of a thrilling comedy that is somehow not cringey and on the nose.
A24 has achieved a certain level of reputation within its near-decade as a film company, but horror particularly has been a strong point. With Bodies Bodies Bodies, its fresh in a sense that it’s just as smart as some of its other hits, but pulled out the serious, high-brow sensibilities of other movies under the banner. It captures the spirit of Scream without the weight of that particular legacy to uphold and a savage, but sharp voice that makes for one of this year’s most original movie offerings yet.