Slasher horror can feel a bit “a dime a dozen” anymore. The formula has been commonplace since the late 1970s, when filmmakers like John Carpenter evolved it into the form we still recognize today. However, Bodies Bodies Bodies, with all its neon light and zany dialogue, shows the form is never truly fixed in stone. Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does it seem to “slasher” movie villains. Look no further for our thoughts on this hotly anticipated A24 horror movie.
Bodies Bodies Bodies follows a group of wealthy twenty-somethings who come together for a “hurricane party” at one of their family mansions… you know, as one does. As the storm rages outside, the kids decide to play “Bodies Bodies Bodies” inside. However, when the bodies really hit the floor, they have no choice but to figure out who is committing the violence. Their lives depend on it, after all. Maria Bakalova, Amandla Stenberg, Rachel Sennott, Myha’la Herrold, Pete Davidson and Lee Pace star in the movie. Halina Reijn directs the film from a script by Sarah DeLappe.
DeLappe’s script features highly contemporary language, which definitely stands out to the ear when watching the action on screen. At one point, a frustrated Alice (Sennott) cries out, “Don’t silence me!.” While later on, Sophie (Stenberg) says, “You… trigger me!” While we hear this language every day on social media and on the street, it isn’t as commonplace on the big screen… yet.
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I am, admittedly, a “Geriatric Millenial.” So, as I sat down to watch this movie, I found myself fixating on this use of language and “what it meant.” Perhaps it lessened the sting of feeling really old. The presence of “Gen-Z” culture is all over Bodies Bodies Bodies, and because of that, it is all over the writing about this film. From a cultural perspective, it’s hard to ignore what is happening.
While other horror movies certainly feel very “of their time” (see Laurie Strode smoking marijuana to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in Halloween), it’s difficult to think of many works that feel as fully representative of a new generation coming to the forefront. However, on first viewing, the melding of the script and performances in Bodies Bodies Bodies feels very self-referential. It’s almost “meta.”
From one (admittedly cynical) perspective, the movie can easily be read as a critique of “the kids” and culture as it currently exists. This is especially true given how the film ends (no spoilers, sweetie). What happens when you put the live-streaming, social media savvy generation against something they can’t control or explain? The results are hilarious, but it’s difficult to gauge if the characters are in on the joke. Are we laughing with them? Or are we laughing at them?
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However, a deeper look at the movie’s press leans away from this harsh reading. Reijn and her cast have repeatedly answered the “Gen Z” question after the film’s SXSW debut, and they are far more genuine. In their eyes, the story is not a critique of “Gen-Z” but rather a reflection of the world as they know it. They aren’t using this language to parody “Gen Z.” They aren’t “woke.” This is their language. This is their culture, and they’re taking ownership of it.
Director Halina Reijn makes her Hollywood feature debut here. She previously directed Instinct in 2019. She assumes directing duties after having started as an actor. In fact, Reijn brings almost thirty years of acting experience on both the big and small screens. Her steadying influence shows. The direction is confident and self-assured, most notably in the crafting of the performances. The acting is genuinely where this movie shines and with such a young cast, bringing a director who knows how an actor thinks is undoubtedly the right choice.
As mentioned, the performances, without exception, are delightful. Each actor is granted a little time to stand out, particularly Stenberg and Sennott. However, despite the sizable ensemble, none of the characters fade into the background. Heck, even Pete Davidson gets his moment to shine (and I have admittedly been rough on the comic in the past). The relationships are real and relatable, giving an unexpected depth to what could be vapid violence.
The film is at its best when it’s able to play within the complicated ground of horror comedy. However, its biggest struggles come late into the second act as the violence slows and things attempt to become more suspenseful. The actors are truly great in the moments of comedy and terror, but as they shift from wondering “who will die next” to “who is doing this,” there’s not quite enough tension to hold everything together.
With that being said, though, as the final questions are answered, all is suddenly right with the world. The ending is pitch-perfect and flawless. It kills me not to be able to discuss spoilers, but the conclusion is smart and savvy. In fact, it salvages the movie from its third-act trials and tribulations. Though, as discussed earlier, it is so easy to read these concluding moments as a cynical critique of our culture. That’s all I’ll say. Even with that, though, it is unique, original and fun.
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Horror, particularly of the slasher variety, is often representative of Hollywood’s younger generation. Up-and-coming filmmakers tackle stories about teenagers (and the unseen forces killing them). Genre classics Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street show this to be the case. Youth prevails in horror. It always has. This is also very much true of Bodies Bodies Bodies. Few movies have felt as pointedly directed at “Gen Z,” but with each passing year, this will be the first of many. The movie may feel weird to some of us. Is it weird? Or are we just getting older?
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a fun blend of horror comedy at its strongest. It might make you feel a little old, but there’s still plenty here to enjoy.
Bodies Bodies Bodies opens in theaters around the country Friday, August 14, 2022.
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