Bloody Gen Z murder mystery slashes conventions of teen slasher horror with sharp satire
Bodies Bodies Bodies
Starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakakova, Rachel Sennott & Lee Pace
Directed by Halina Reijn
In theaters Friday, Aug. 12, 2022
In the genre of horror movies, there are some time-honored “rules” that almost always get broken, tropes that set the horror into motion: Don’t go in the basement! Don’t look in the attic! Don’t walk through the woods! Stay out of that creepy old building! Leave that weird doll alone!
Now we can add: Don’t attend an overnight house party with a gaggle of spoiled, narcissistic Gen Z’s. Especially in a storm.
In this wickedly sharp slasher-flick semi satire, a group of young 20-somethings gather at the well-appointed home of one of their friends to ride out a hurricane they know is about to hit.
The young cast is excellent. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, from The Hate U Give and the Hunger Games franchise), a recovering addict, arrives with her new lover, the shy “outsider” Bee (Maria Bakalova, previously Borat’s daughter), a working-class college student from Eastern Europe. They meet the others at the home of Sophie’s childhood friend, the dissolute David (SNL’s Pete Davidson), who’s there with his girlfriend, Emma (Chase Wonders), an aspiring actress. Alice (Rachel Sennott, a standout in Shiva Baby) is a spacey podcaster accompanied by her older Tinder date, the enigmatic Greg (Lee Pace, whoplayed an elven king in the Hobbit trilogy). And the skeptical, smoldering Jordan (Myha’la Herrod, who starred in the British series Industry, as well as on Broadway in The Book of Morman) doesn’t seem to trust anyone.
There are no parents around, plenty of booze, pot and cocaine, and even some playful fun and games. One involves shot glasses and everyone taking turns slapping each other silly; the other is a parlor lights-out whodunnit from which the movie takes its name, wherein the group tries to ferret out the “murderer” among them, using glowsticks and smartphones to illuminate the darkness. What a blast of unfettered, let’s-be-bad bacchanalia! What could go wrong?
Everything, when the electricity punks out, the wi-fi crashes, and someone ends up dead with a slashed throat. And the tempest brewing inside the house becomes a far greater threat than the wind and rain howling outside.
It’s a classic, stormy-night setup with a savage, subversively on-point new-age spin about kids with mega-money, arsenals of sassy ‘tude and easy access to just about anything—who are now faced with the grim reality of maybe losing everything, including their lives. It’s not a “horror movie,” at least in the traditional sense; there are no monsters, ghosts or devil dolls. But it brings the horror, all the same.
Dutch director-auteur Helina Reijn works the time-honored “teen terror” setup but gives it a riotously bloody twist, skewering these young, self-absorbed children of wealth and privilege as the characters begin to suspect—and then turn on—each other with piercing putdowns, vicious verbal backstabbing and sneering jabs of jealousy. Maybe the murderer is him…or her…or Max, who gave David a black eye, then left before everyone else got there.
“You’re so toxic!” Emma tells Alice. “Why are you being so mean?” another wails. And then, “Your parents are f—ckin’ middle class! They teach at a college.”
These youngsters, who live in the savvy social-media world of TikTok, Google calendars and group text chats, revert to something much more basic, lo-fi and primal when they have to figure out their for-reals whodunnit…and how to survive the murder-mystery night. Their rich-girl issues about class, gender fluidity, identity, trauma, self-image, mistrust, microaggression, love and sex come spilling out.
And so do the knives, so to speak—as well as a machete, a gun, and a hammer.
As the body count continues to rise, you’ll likely find yourself rooting for another horror-movie trope, the “final girl,” a female character who proves herself virtuous enough—and resourceful enough—to outlast everyone else.
Who will it be? I certainly won’t tell—and I also won’t divulge the gut-punch surprise at the end, courtesy of an iPhone unlocked with some inventive facial recognition.
So, sit back, throw on a neon-hue glowstick necklace and watch this murderously clever Gen Z meltdown—and the pile-up of Bodies Bodies Bodies.