In Bodies Bodies Bodies, the dismal new slasher from A24, there are violent crimes committed, including a blade to the neck and a fall down the stairs that seems like it belongs in HBO’s The Staircase. However, none of this bloodshed compares to the crime done by the film, which has two actresses who recently gave two of the funniest comic turns in recent memory. Maria Bakalova of Borat: The Next Movie and Rachel Sennott of Shiva Baby star in a film that virtually eliminates all of their brilliance. The movie ends with the wit of the characters having been reduced to a lump of ash. All that’s left are the skeletal remains of a movie that’s having an identity problem and a fantastic premise that was thrown away. Halina Reijn’s Bodies, Bodies, Bodies takes a few well-known clichés—a friend getaway (substitute the cabin in the woods with the richest friend’s empty house), a drinking game gone wrong, a storm that knocks out the power, and a murder mystery in a dark house—and vampirically saps the stupid fun out of almost all of them. On paper, the friends appear to be a wild group. There is the carefree, not very intelligent The group is made up of Alice (Sennott) and the older man she’s seeing (Lee Pace); Jordan (Myhala Herrold), an actress with a dark-spirited vibe who may or may not be fun; Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) and David (Pete Davidson), whose house they’re all staying at; and, lastly, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), who just got out of rehab, and her girlfriend Bee (Bakalova), It goes without saying that the title of the film alludes to a slapstick murder game in which someone plays the murderer and someone else dies. In this movie, the game becomes genuine with the expected fake-outs. However, the real question isn’t who will be killed and why, but rather who is actually doing it and why. The more intriguing mystery is why this film is made the way it is; this is something that may be deduced from the camerawork in the first scene. The aesthetic of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies feels more appropriate for a sensual, tactile European arthouse drama than for the film that it is. All those drawn-out, intense close-ups, with the camera aggressively seeking out folks’ faces for more significance than this particular film is willing to provide. It’s not exactly a look that fits a movie that, based on the data at hand, appears to aim to be bubbly, spooky, and entertaining. And as a result, the outcome degrades.
I adore the concept of a drunken murder-mystery game that turns unexpectedly into a real murder, a violent spark that sets the collective mind of a group of already anxious friends spinning. It’s a cunning premise. It calls for some mischief from the movies, some B-movie disdain for ethics or the law. Instead, Bodies Bodies Bodiesis at utter war with itself. It aspires to be a slasher but lacks the necessary irrationality. It attempts to be funny, but it only contains two gags, which it repeatedly uses. Although it attempts to create suspense, it barely makes use of what this scenario and its McMansion location have to offer in terms of tension.
It becomes obvious that nothing is going to happen by the third time you watch a character wander through the dark house with only an iPhone flashlight to guide them, the third time you tense up at the sight of all that negative space in the frame, ripe for jump scares or at least playful little spooks. Long character roaming moments are exactly that. They’re just exposition; they have no rhythm, no feel, and no surprises.
The majority of the film plays out in this heavy, laden, joyless, and strangely forgetful a way that makes you wonder how far away from Kristen Roupenian’s original spec script this final product has become. There are also misplaced plot threads and anxious moments (a missing friend, some overly dramatic backstory, and on and on) (the short story writer famed for her viralNew Yorkerhit Cat People). Many of the film’s spiciest elements feel like after-the-fact additions—a pinch here or there, just enough for someone to be able to create a trailer that is far more enticing than the actual film. Those wisecracks about Gen Z? They are scarce and few. It’s as if the movie has forgotten its own plot or, perhaps more correctly, that one of the project’s few later writers just copied and pasted the gags into a scene that didn’t absolutely need them.
Pray want the cokehead rich kid role played by Davidson to live as long as possible.
A24 Gwen Capistran
Only Sennott manages to emerge from this chaos with a consistently entertaining personality, and that’s because we already know who he is: the beloved nitwit, the fun-loving friend, and the vapid life of the party. At most, there’s one joke there. The film goes overboard tenfold while grossly underestimating Sennott’s all-around propensity for mischief. The film has fewer jokes than it appears to know, but at least this one is a joke. Unfortunately, Sennott’s fellow cast members do not fare as well. Reijns’ aimless, irregular, unfunny direction concentrates far too much on pointless, irrelevant minutiae and accomplishes far too little with what the actors are trying to convey. For instance, Herrold does better when she appears to be misbehaving. However, the movie doesn’t do a very good job of imagining what that would seem like. While everyone else accuses Wonders of being the obnoxious overly sentimental friend, you wouldn’t really know it from the way she acts. Her tears seem to belong to a different movie, not a gangbusters terrifying slasher but a lo-fi, forgettable drama. This is a consistent flaw in the movie, not the actress’ fault. Even Davidson doesn’t come across as the jerk that his act would lead one to believe. His broham cokehead rich-kid swagger prevents any potential tension from building up in the narrative. When Pete Davidson isn’t the person you want to perish first in a house full of victims being sacrificed to a murderer, you know it says something. Why would you want the fascinating individuals to pass away first? The fact that they are outnumbered is already a problem.
Contrarily, Bodies, Bodies, does pull off a somewhat entertaining tail end. But even this is weighed down by poor timing; the jokes are only given after far too much pacing and melodramatic rambling, as if the audience must work for every bit of enjoyment the film has to offer. All of this relates to the film’s poor, very basic misunderstanding of what it has to give. Bodies Bodies Bodies tries to inject something resembling genuine, buzzkill drama real emotions! into its weighty third act, with the survivors up to that point standing around arguing, backstabbing, and revealing themselves, rather than viewing its characters’ personalities as putty for the plot to play with. They talk to each other (and us!) about halfway to death, but not quite to the point where the movie can stand on its own. That’s a challenge. Too devoid of joy to have a remedy, Bodies Bodies Bodies.