Before its release, A24’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies” billed itself as a satirical slasher skewering Zoomer, replete with jokes about the pettiness of its irritating cast of characters. That version of the movie would be quite entertaining on its own, but in practice, it turned out to be something even more interesting than that: a “And Then There Were None”-style story about young adults whose privileges, troubles, and hardships. The wired sense of distrust brings them to a total melting point in the course of a single night.
The most surprising part of the movie about six young adults and a man in his forties trapped in a mansion during a storm might not be who killed who (although we’ll talk more about that later), but who the movie is after with their sharp humor.
A smart shipment
The trailers for “Bodies Bodies Bodies” presented it as a horror comedy fueled by the schadenfreude of seeing shallow, entitled people murdered on screen. The promos especially highlighted the very “online” language that the girls co-opt, using oversaturated terms like “provoked”, “toxic”, and “muted” to darkly comedic effect. How stupid are these people who would still be arguing about these things while covered in blood in the middle of the slaughter, right?
Turns out the answer isn’t particularly stupid. Sarah DeLappe’s screenplay, which is based on a story by “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian, leaves plenty of room for sympathy for these characters and imbues them with generation-specific wisdom despite their weak points. They may be clueless about some things and unnecessarily cruel to each other, but several of them also have extremely strong self-preservation.
When the power goes out, the group has a stack of flashlights ready. When someone dies, they become suspicious, especially of the only person in the house who is older than them. The story carries a base of mistrust that doesn’t seem so malicious as understandable: it’s about people who have been given money and technology, but not much else. They clearly have trouble connecting, bringing in new boyfriends from Tinder on weekend getaways, making podcasts their friends won’t listen to, and lying to each other to try to preserve an idealized version of love.
Who is really being lampooned?
In the cases of Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova), they too have become collateral damage in a sociopolitical war waged by the older generation. Sophie is an addict, while Bee is secretly jobless. The movie doesn’t put too much emphasis on any of these details, but it reminds me of the searing monologue at the end of the much more overtly pro-Gen Z satire “Assassination Nation”: “don’t take your hate away.” on me, I just got here,” the heroine of that movie says into the camera after her world collapses into adult-driven chaos.
The same could be said for some of the characters in this movie. Several of them have inherited wealth, sure, but they also inherited a shitty economy, an opioid epidemic, and a technology-dependent worldview. They didn’t ask for any of that, just like they didn’t ask to spend their vacations huddled in dark corners worrying that their friends would kill them.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” has drawn comparisons to HBO’s “Girls,” another show that saw humanity in its characters despite their extensive flaws, and I think that’s fitting. The film surprises and delights us because the characters are often more intelligent than the “satire” label would have us expect, and are only the butt of the joke when the film calls for it. Sometimes, however, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” definitely requires it.
Unpacking that climactic fight
The film finally dives into broader satire in its final scenes, beginning with a scene where Bee, Sophie, Alice (Rachel Sennott), and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) air all their grievances as one of them waves a gun. . . Their characters start to approach the caricatures of incompetent and self-absorbed Zoomers here, regurgitating the overused mental health jargon I mentioned earlier and accusing each other of being controlling, unfaithful, and, in one particularly hilarious one-liner: upper middle class.
Despite its deliberate silliness, this scene also plays into the film’s covert themes of youthful disconnection. Instead of empathizing with Bee, who emotionally reveals that she dropped out of school to care for her mother, who has borderline personality disorder, the rest of the group gets caught up in a discussion about podcasts and personality types. They’re too far gone, arguing about all the wrong things instead of saving or helping each other. It’s extremely funny, but also depressing. This scene is essentially Twitter in a nutshell.
In its tongue-in-cheek ending, the film leans even further into its claim that these (mostly) smart but absent-minded youngsters are stuck looking at all the wrong things. In the final scene, Bee and Sophie are the only survivors, and instead of uniting against the killer, they can’t help but focus on a decidedly less pressing issue: whether or not Sophie cheated on Bee with Jordan. That’s how, in a mad scramble to check Sophie’s text messages, they end up with David’s (Pete Davidson) phone and find out how he really died.
The ironic unmasking of the murderer
The big punchline of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is that there never was a killer, except perhaps misplaced machismo and a need for influence. The night before, Greg (Lee Pace), Alice’s handsome and goofy older boyfriend, effortlessly opened a bottle of champagne with a kukri (basically, a Nepalese machete). Now, the girls see that David, who was jealous of Greg, tried to do the same thing for a TikTok video just as the storm was brewing, accidentally slitting his throat in the process. When the girls found his body and the bloodied kukri, it was natural for them to assume there was a murderer in their midst.
Not only is this reveal darkly hilarious, but it also asks us to reframe everything we’ve seen so far. Almost every character had an element to their alibi or backstory that felt like it might have been a lie, but it turns out that most of them were being honest. Poor Greg, who Bee hits with the weight of a kettle, didn’t kill anyone, and was really just vibing in the other room as all hell broke loose. Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) is not an expert liar, but a normal actress, one who fell down the stairs after taking drugs with Sophie. Alice, whose vapid naivety meant she was never much of a suspect anyway, was accidentally shot during a fight over the gun. Jordan ended up pushed down the stairwell, falling into a pile of broken glass bottles at the height of the final trio’s paranoia.
Sophie, Bee and a cell phone
Then there are Sophie and Bee. It’s a testament to the film’s characterizations that we understand why Bee would continue to seek confirmation of her partner’s infidelity when it’s pretty clear she already had it. Early in the film, we see Bee notice Jordan’s distinctive-looking bralette in her bedroom. Later, she finds the matching pair of panties in the backseat of Sophie’s car. So when Jordan claims he just dated Sophie, there’s no need for Bee to check his girlfriend’s texts to confirm. However, she never mentions underwear.
Halina Reijn’s crisp, ever-changing direction prevents the audience from going completely into any one character’s head, but if it lines us up visually with anyone, it’s Bee. At first, her introversion seems to hint at a dark secret. But later, when her backstory is revealed, it’s clear that Bee desperately wants to be loved and feel safe, even if it means deliberately ignoring a lot of red flags about her partner.
The final note of the film, then, is especially ironic. A character we’ve heard about but never seen, Max (Conner O’Malley), returns to the house the next morning, only to find a bloodbath. When he asks the girls what happened, Bee is distracted by her phone and the last shot freezes on her innocently pleased face as he tells Max and Sophie that she has cell service again. It’s one last foray into phone-obsessed youth, but the movie as a whole is smart enough that it’s also the culmination of every funny, tragic, and dark thing that came before.
Bee’s life is a mess, but she does have one comforting little indicator of a return to order: the persistent beeping of her phone’s notifications, to provide that inevitable boost of manufactured serotonin, nonetheless.
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