By Andrew Warren, Staff Writer
Bodies Bodies Bodies, a new horror whodunit directed by Halina Reijn, tells the story of six Gen Z-ers and one Gen X-er who plan a lavish mansion party during a hurricane. During a party game, one of the Gen Z-ers is killed, causing each survivor, in typical whodunit fashion, to speculate as to who among them is the murderer.
Harvard Business review writes that we consume horror to stimulate ourselves. They explain that “exposure to terrifying acts, or even the anticipation of those acts, can stimulate us — both mentally and physically.” This explains why the first act is so difficult for horror movies. Most horror movies don’t start killing main characters until after the initial setup, which generally occurs a third of the way through the movie. People don’t watch Friday the 13th to see counselors revitalize a struggling camp, they watch it to see Jason slaughter those counselors– But there’s not much slaughter in those first thirty minutes.
At the same time, if the movie rushes through the first act, the audience does not get the chance to develop any emotional attachment to the characters and their subsequent deaths become meaningless. Thus, there are two paths a horror movie can choose to take. It can spend the first act building up suspense and atmosphere. This is what Jordan Peele movies tend to do. Or it can make its characters fun and engaging, so the lack of tension is compensated with humor and playfulness, which is what Scream does really well.
Bodies Bodies Bodies’s first act chooses the second route with mixed results. There’s minor friction between some of these friends, but not enough to make the audience feel anxious. You’re just watching rich, unlikeable, young adults party in a mansion. The film, at this point, lacks humor and tension, leaving the first third of the movie genre-less These scenes are vital to understanding the group’s dynamics: the characters’ relationships comically fall apart toward the end. However, little is done to make them enjoyable. The party scenes are shot in such a way that one feels less like a participant and more like an observer in the corner.
The movie’s focus and atmosphere immediately shift once the first murder occurs. The satire starts to kick in and the jokes start to land. A lot of the humor revolves around seeing Gen Z’ers—who frequently get “outraged” or “traumatized” online—use that same language in a situation that justifiably demands trauma and outrage.
The film’s larger message has to do with social media and the ways we communicate. So many of our conversations are through texts or DMs. This allows us to avoid any conflict with the people around us, because we can always send out messages with empty niceties as opposed to hashing out any animosity. Our relationships get built on a foundation of unresolved grudges. The appearance of a murder pushes this central theme to the forefront. When push comes to shove, these so-called friends really don’t like each other. Friends accuse friends. Girlfriends turn on girlfriends. Hidden grudges get revealed and passive aggressive behavior becomes wholly aggressive.
The central mystery is pretty engaging and pays off wonderfully. It’s a movie that will probably reward a rewatch as certain behaviors are viewed in new lights as all motivations are revealed.The killer reveal (not spoiling anything) was done perfectly and tied in very well with the film’s main points.
The acting is fine, but not remarkable, and I would chalk that up to the difficult tone. It’s not a broad comedy but it’s also not a straightforward horror, so the actors need to be funny but in an understated manner. Maria Bakalova and Myha’la Herrold play their roles too seriously for my liking. On the other hand, Rachel Sennot was truly a standout. She plays Alice, an amatuer podcaster who tries to be above the petty drama. Every line she delivers is hysterical. She clearly understands what the writer was going for and is the source of a majority of the laughs.
The cinematography and filming techniques didn’t impress me. The scenes are mostly shot handheld, wobbly, and through up-close camera angles. I normally prefer when the director tries to impress me, like with well choreographed tracking shots or snappy editing. And while I understand that this probably didn’t upset most viewers, cinematography is something I consider in my verdict.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a fun, non-regrettable watch. The first act drags and isn’t shot in a particularly creative way. But the satire hits its targets, the story is original, and the last 50 minutes really fly by. I would recommend it to fans of Scream and Mean Girls because of the similar plotline and satirization.