It’s telling that the official synopsis for “Bodies Bodies Bodies” – a darkly comic slasher film centering on a party game that turns deadly – does not, as you might expect, use the word “friends” to describe the participants: eight (mostly insufferably) young and (mostly insufferably) hot soon-to-be victims. Rather, they are a “group” of rich 20-somethings who have gathered under the threat of an imminent hurricane at a remote, mansion-like estate to drink, take drugs and pursue the murder-mystery-style role-playing game of the title, in which players must identify an unknown “killer” (who chooses his or her “targets” by tapping them on the back).
To be sure, there are several par-for-the-course couplings here: Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) is with Bee (Maria Bakalova); David (Pete Davidson) is with Emma (Chase Sui Wonders); Alice (Rachel Sennott) is with Greg (Lee Pace, a 40-ish outlier in this cast of kids). And then there are Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) and Max (Conner O’Malley), the latter of whom almost doesn’t count as a cast member because he shows up only at the very end to deliver the great laugh line: “What happened?” It’s great because the scenery and the ensemble cast are drenched with blood, and, well, it’s kind of hard to explain.
Jordan also gets off a good line early in the proceedings: “Be careful,” she whispers conspiratorially to Bee, one of two newcomers, along with Greg, in this otherwise loosely knit assembly of frenemies. She’s warning Bee about Sophie, a recovering addict with whom several people in the group seem to have fraught histories.
In general, the dialogue (by Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian) is sharp, is appropriately satirical and does not go easy on the film’s ridicule-worthy protagonists, one of whom, naturally, has a podcast that no one listens to. Another is a self-absorbed actress, and David – whose father owns the house they’re about to trash – lays into a party guest for using the criminally overused buzzword “gaslighting.” Of her own content creation, another character declaims, defensively, “It’s creative nonfiction, which is a valid response in an attention economy.”
Touché, I guess?
Dutch director Halina Reijn (“Instinct”) choreographs all this obsessive self-regard and catfighting as skillfully as one can under the circumstances, which quickly include a storm-induced blackout, lit by smartphone flashlights and the occasional bolt of lightning, after the storm hits and the first fake murder gives way to what appears to be a real one, followed by an Agatha Christie-esque winnowing of the flock. It’s intentionally chaotic and, now and again, surprisingly funny.
There’s also a third-act twist, and it’s not a bad one. Rather than allow these characters to elicit our concern as casualties of a stalker/psychopath, they’re portrayed as fatalities of something far more pernicious: their own stupidity.
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