Horror takes a backseat in the still-horrific millennial slasher film Bodies Bodies Bodies 

Rich, coked out Americans, who diagnose each other like TikTokers with a degree in anything but Psychology, become a cavalcade of corpses in Halina Reijn’s new film.

For many young millennials and Zoomers, a weekend getaway with old friends in a mansion sounds like a perfect opportunity for skewering the rich while posing for poolside pics. But without the comforts of cell service and a heated pool, where do all the good vibes go? 

Bodies Bodies Bodies is directed by Halina Reijn, written by Sarah DeLappe, from a story by Kristen Roupenian, who also wrote the (to this day, perhaps only) viral short story, “Cat Person.” The film begins with a snog that turns into an unanswered declaration of love. What the couple Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) like about each other is what every couple in the film seems to share: they’re hot and ready to fuck — mutual interests, compatibility and emotional availability be damned. As one character says, “I look like I fuck. And that’s the vibe I like to put out there.” 

Sophie and Bee show up at David’s mansion — well, his parents’ mansion. The friend, David (Pete Davidson), and his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), are at the bottom of the pool with Alice (Rachel Sennott) and Greg (Lee Pace). Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), who dated Sophie, waits for her boyfriend Max (Conner O’Malley). It may take a while to figure out everyone’s dating history, but the threatening looks and clingy gestures offer a hint. What Bee, who has been dating Sophie for six weeks, doesn’t know is that none of Sophie’s friends were expecting her. Sophie has recently completed a stint in rehab, but her friendships have not recovered from her toxic past. When Bee offers a zucchini loaf as a thank you for the invitation, her humble gift is tossed off and scorned. Everyone except for Bee and Jordan (whose parents are mere university professors) are rich. 

A hurricane rages through the area and shuts the power off. Before long, the booze flows and the music starts. Bodies, bodies, bodies dance drunkenly on a glow-stick-lit dancefloor. When Jordan gets a little too close to Bee, Sophie breaks the party up by suggesting they all play a game. You guessed it: Bodies Bodies Bodies. The game is simple. Perhaps too simple to generate much suspense for the duration of the film. After the houseguests draw lots, the murderer “kills” another player by tapping them on the back. When a body is discovered, they shout “bodies bodies bodies.” Then, they try to suss out the guilty party. Of course, a real dead body soon shows up. And then another, and another. 

Bodies Bodies Bodies

All this is to say that Bodies Bodies Bodies is less about bodies (both their strength and their fragility) than it is about the drama of private life made public. That the drama itself is textbook proves to be the film’s weakness. It’s a horror film in which the horror takes the backseat, and interpersonal conflict does all the driving. The slow revelation of characters’ shared animosity and poorly kept secrets do little to change our view of them. We always knew they were privileged and self-centred because that is how the film portrays them from the beginning. The film’s nihilist implication that no one is trustworthy fails to develop beyond that. Are guns and axes the real tools of honesty? In the end, the plot twist (the film’s only genuine surprise) suggests that the inescapability of the attention economy is their generation’s biggest affliction. It’s a pity it arrives so late in the film. 

Bee is an unknown in the equation, which leads others to suspect her. Is she Russian? Bulgarian? Where did she study? The more interesting question, however, is what does she think of all these rich Americans coked out and diagnosing each other like TikTokers with a degree in anything but Psychology? Although the screenplay may not have written Bee as a foreigner, it is a pity that the filmmakers never expand her point of view. Americans, and perhaps especially millennials, may be good at making fun of themselves, but there’s nothing like an outsider to make you feel ashamed of your American-ness. If Bodies Bodies Bodies is really a slasher, then why doesn’t she pick up an axe sooner?

That isn’t to say that there is no joy to be had. The cast takes great pleasure in poking fun at their fellow GenZers. But the explosive accusations of ‘ableism’ and ‘gaslighting’, and the poorly timed body dysmorphia self-diagnosis are ticked off like items in a millennial starter pack. When David’s girlfriend accuses him of gaslighting, he rolls his eyes at the word’s overuse. “What next?” he says, “Are you going to call me a narcissist?” Everyone is stuck in a loop of hyper-communication and decontextualized therapy-speak. No one can escape the Twitter thread, even when the signal is gone, and the phones are dead. If that isn’t horrific, what is? ■

Bodies Bodies Bodies, directed by Halina Reijn

Bodies Bodies Bodies opens in Montreal theatres on Aug. 11.


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