A24’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a Killer!

GRAPHIC BY MORGAN LEE / GRAPHICS CENTER

A drug-riddled night full of glow sticks, toxic situation-ships, and debauchery turns left when affluent host David, played by Pete Davidson, is found dead after a party game. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” follows the newly sober Sophie, played by Amandla Steinberg, who crashes David’s kickback with her new girlfriend Bee, played by Maria Bakalova. 

Set to a Charli XCX soundtrack, our suspects — Sophie, Bea, the head-strong Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), flighty Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), boisterous Alice (Rachael Sennott), and her older online date Vet Greg (Lee Pace) — are left to wonder who amongst them could have killed David and who could be next?

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a social commentary about Gen Z’s individuality complex around woke culture. The characters consistently prioritize themselves over solving the murders, often valuing their pride over their lives. Their greatest downfall is their impulsivity to act before asking questions. One notable scene is when a skeptical Alice yells for a potential suspect to meet them all in the kitchen. As the rest of the girls scramble to shush Alice, she resists while claiming that they are “silencing her.” Throughout the film, they all tend to hide terrible decisions behind accusations and co-opted language. 

Director Halina Reijn created a satirical piece that understands enough about young people to constructively critique them without mocking them. Instead of smothering each character in a blanket of Twitter buzzwords, African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and crude language, Reijn distinguishes each character without losing generational aesthetic and tone. The dialogue and costuming are effortlessly current without racing against quick, unreliable trends or slang.  

The film’s authenticity is rooted in the director’s talent for capturing Gen Z’s voice. Rather than falling into the trap of like, creating media that promises to like, critique the youth but like, seems more interested in misogyny and the objectification of young women than like, being genuine like, commentary. The young women in “Bodies” are reactionary and narcissistic, they are not damsels in distress. They push into dark rooms, attack first before asking questions, and advocate for themselves — which may not be the best response after shooting someone. As a viewer, you despise but understand each choice a character makes. These characters are flinchingly familiar: the flighty cool girl, the gaslighting frat boy, that one girl with the geriatric bumble date. You can’t help but wonder with mortifying interest which character a Buzzfeed quiz will eventually assign you.

In a more formulaic horror movie, none of these characters would have made it past the opening credits. Within the horror genre, morality is a bigger indicator of survival than intelligence or brute strength. Fortunately, morally upright characters are a rare sight for an A24 film. In order for the whodunit spirit to fully settle, each character is awarded moral ambiguity — just not enough to justify being a homicidal boogeyman.

What makes “Bodies” so unique is its flirtation with woke culture. It’s aware of itself enough to utilize wokeness as a guiding principle and a comedic device and practice what it preaches. It is clear the writers (Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian) and Reijn considered the intersections of their characters’ identities and how that impacts the relationships between them. As suspects are ticked off the list, fingers begin to fly in a shockingly logical way: who has the most motivation? Who statistically commits more violence? How come the entire group eagerly does coke but the black girl is the only one with a problem?  

There are multiple opportunities for hyper-sexual scenes or lingering, objectifying shots of the actresses that past slasher films would have eagerly taken advantage of. After an artfully shot pool sequence, the characters tastefully wrap themselves in white, fluffy robes to lounge and be young and sardonic. The sexually charged scenes between Steinberg and their love interest, Bakalova, are intimate but brief. Sex and sexuality are not death sentences in “Bodies”, there is no desire to punish characters for their immortalities. And, potential spoiler, race isn’t a death sentence either.

This is a genre where the suffering of women feels inevitable but in this film, their suffering didn’t feel tied to their identity. No one suffered because they were promiscuous, because they were mean, or because they were somehow more deserving than the doe-eyed girl-next-door. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” does not reinvent the wheel, but the framing of the story and its consideration of intersectionality for the characters delightfully overrides traditional horror stereotypes. Its plot twists and surprises are successful because it subverts the rigid expectations that its horror elders have created and maintained. 

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