There’s nothing exactly ground-breaking about the premise of Bodies Bodies Bodies – real corpses start dropping during a blackout party game of ‘murder’ (here called ‘bodies bodies bodies’, though there’s a witty moment as the sole older person in the group calls it by his generation’s name ‘werewolf’) played by a bitchy friends group of rich folk (who might as well be tagged a people-who-blatantly-hate-each-other group) in a rambling mansion during a hurricane which naturally shuts off the power/lights at a bad moment. What’s fresh about the film is its up-to-the-moment nature – though that’s likely to mean the characters will look as antiquated as the ’dig the crazy music, kids’ gang from Dracula AD 1972 by the time it hits streaming services.
Scripted by Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian (remember the buzz about ‘Cat Person’?) and directed by Halina Reijn (familiar as an actress – in Black Book), it walks a fine line between chronicling the TikTok/podcast/woke generation and sending up their superficialities. In recent horror, it reminded me a little of Let’s Scare Julie and the no-longer kids here could be an older generation of those teens who got into trouble. Most of the folk here are barely in their early twenties, but they’re already in Big Chill mode. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, ‘Rue’ in the first Hunger Games) is a recovering alcoholic/drug addict who’s burned all her bridges and boats and been cut off from her trust fund, and she shows up with new girlfriend Bee (a great what-she-did-after-her-breakthrough role for Maria Baklova, from Borat II) in tow – ticking off louche host David (Pete Davidson), who has black eyes from annoying a friend who’s now suspiciously absent and a bitter put-down for every occasion.
Alice (Rachel Sennott), who has the podcast and body dysmorphia, has also done the Big Chill bring-an-outsider-in thing, amusingly replacing the much younger girlfriend of most such stories with her older, laid-back macho new squeeze Greg (Lee Pace). Along with Greg comes an old joke about his status as a PTSD-suffering vet that is made new again with a hilarious turn later on. Completing the gang are actress Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) – when she’s suspected of duplicity and murder someone deadpans ‘she wasn’t that good in Hedda Gabler’ – and tattooed, seething Jordan (Myha’la Herrold). The key to a good slasher movie is often whether you’d be happy to watch a movie about these characters just hanging out and bickering and having complicated sex lives without the murders – and Bodies Bodies Bodies is consistently funny, wicked and quotable throughout, though it also orchestrates the tension expertly as people show up mysteriously dead or get killed in front of us and everyone tries to work out why or whodunit while making bad decisions, betraying the wrong people or tripping over revelations.
It doesn’t have the same twist ending out but has some of the sense of fun with slashing of the original April Fools Day – though there’s obvious contemporary relevance to many of the specifics. Refreshingly, this skips past the usual jibes about influencers and Youtube – there are dozens of horror films taking that easy route – to show us folk who’ve got past social media – they mostly pity Alice for being out of step, though one key turn is shown by an ill-advised attempt at finding TikTok fame – and have their own bubble of awful which comes from being young, multi-ethnic, superficially liberal when its suits or flatters their own ends, and ostentatiously rich. A key moment comes when one of the party shoots another in the leg, not quite by mistake but because the situation has escalated wildly – ‘you shot me’, whines the wounded party … ‘no I didn’t,’ insists the shooter, with Trumpian/Johnsonian bare-faced denial of self-evident truth, and when called on it doubles down with an even more insistent ‘no I didn’t’.