It all starts with a swooning kiss between two young women, so clearly into each other that the camera refuses to focus on anything else.
This thirsty kiss, which is sensual, lively, and refreshingly unmodest, serves as a vow by director Halina Reijn in what kind of a film her riotously entertaining “Bodies Bodies Bodies” would be. And it’s thrilling to find out at the end that she would keep her promise with a survive-the-night whodunit.
In that sense, prepare for a Generation Z “And Then There Were None” entangled in the lush nihilism of “A Bigger Splash” and social concerns of “Knives Out,” one that is neither hesitant to mince uncomfortable words nor skims over character development, however problematic its personalities may be.
It’s a huge risk to be this open-handed, as the screenplay (based on a story by Kristen Roupenian, the author of the popular New Yorker short piece Cat Person), doesn’t exactly offer up a likable group of characters. Sniggers Sophie and Bee are the first two of the group to meet, played by an electric Amandla Sternberg (The Hate U Give) and Maria Bakalova, who starred in the great “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” respectively.
We pick up that they are in a recent relationship, on their way to a mansion party at the home of the extremely rich David (a goofy Pete Davidson), Sophie’s finest, and a long-standing buddy.
Alongside these would be Pete’s go-getter girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), the ambitious Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), and Alice, played by an extremely bold, charming, and present Rachel Sennott (“Shiva Baby”), the easy standout of the ensemble as a hilariously oblivious podcaster who can afford to talk a little less. The oddity in a crowd of teenagers is Alice’s 40-year-old boyfriend, Greg (Lee Pace), who is considerably older.
Except for the modest Bee, these are all annoyingly wealthy individuals, as you can see. However, their money cannot hide their petty attitudes. As soon as Sophie and Bee enter the enormous manor, to everyone’s astonishment, feuds begin to bubble up. Why didn’t Sophie respond in a group chat and let us know she was coming?
Who is the Bee she’s with? (Jordan appears to be especially bitter about Bee’s presence, given his feelings for Sophie.) It all seems like a perfect storm of ill will among the group, but it is bested only by the actual hurricane on its way, the real catalyst of the house party that includes alcohol, narcotics, and silly games to be played in the dark.
The mansion is host to a variety of murder-mystery games, the most popular being Bodies Bodies Bodies, which starts the mayhem in motion across the vast chambers of the estate. The posse loses all influence before we know it, and bloody corpses begin falling one by one against the backdrop of a howling storm and Disasterpeace’s increasingly worrisome music.
With edge-of-your-seat intrigue, a decent amount of frights and a genuine sense of humor, Reijn makes excellent use of all the nooks and crannies in the house’s gorgeous interiors to swiftly traverse a mazy chain of events. Every successful slasher—at least good ones like the original “Scream,” which gives “Bodies Bodies Bodies” plenty of DNA—is a dance between what the camera exposes vs. what it chooses to conceal.
Reijn expertly weaves his own unique language into a well-defined genre, keeping you guessing as he does so. (Needless to say, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is an excellent candidate for repeat viewings in the theater once you’ve absorbed its surprising twist, thanks largely to its terrific cast.)
The believability in which Reijn builds the world the spoiled youngsters live in is equally as effective as the visuals. Sure, these people who spend their entire lives digitally on social media, TikTok, and group messaging, to say the least, speak a lot of trendy buzz words such as “gaslighting” and “ally.”
But, in “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” these words add up to much more than empty box-ticking, guided by a smart script that strives to show its characters as real, genuine flesh-and-blood members of Generation Z. First, you get to know them well, intoxicated by their organic chemistry. (It’s impossible to overstate how great the cast is.) And soon after, you start wondering how well you really know them; whether something was missed before, as one might with even close friends from time to time.
The thrill comes from the fact that your struggle is shared by the entire cast of players as they try to determine who the murderer is throughout a night full of complex gender, generation, social class, and bodily insecurities. It’s even more thrilling when the pace begins to slow somewhat near the end; this is the kind of stuff you’d want in a fun summer show.
Movie Name: Bodies Bodies Bodies
Watch free: Cinemahdv2
Cast Leads: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Myha’la Herrold, Lee Pace
Director: Halina Reijn
Producer: Ali Herting, David Hinojosa
Written by: Sarah DeLappe, Kristen Roupenian
Director Of Photography: Jasper Wolf
Movie Rating: 3/5