Review: ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ (affluenza of the rich and famous)

An oversold self-cleaning oven.

After Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) invites her girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to the home of her friend David (Pete Davidson) for a hurricane party, the reception from the other party goers is less than friendly. Trying to have fun, blend in, and be there for Sophie — who starts to seem a little out of it — Bee navigates a secret web of relationships and backstabbing as the drugs and alcohol start taking effect. When David suggests a round of Bodies Bodies Bodies similar a to live-action version of the board game Clue, more attitudes flare up until the power goes out, and (wouldn’t you just know it) someone turns up dead. Isolated by the storm and a car that won’t start, every past iniquity and indiscretion gets trudged up as a reason to suspect one another of being the killer… and the body count begins to rise.

Directed by Halina Reijn from a sceenplay by Sarah DeLappe based on a story by Kristen Roupenian, this A24 production is a first feature for all of them. It’s built around a lock-box plot: drop the characters into a container, shake it around a bit, then let them out to see who’s left. For this scenario, it’s a small mansion off the beaten path with a lot of rooms and secret hiding places cut off by a hurricane. The characters all know what’s coming, believing they’re prepped and ready, and not really taking anything seriously — just another excuse to do whatever it is people are supposed to do when “partying.” When an actual dead body turns up, is the killer a random stranger, someone who knows who they all are, or a person in attendance since the very beginning?

Maybe you’re born with money or maybe you’re not, but it’s not actually “mo’ money, mo’ problems” here. The film hinges on suspicion and a lack of moral center opening Pandora’s box as homicide motivation: everyone’s a suspect, so anything goes to survive the night, right? Why is (fill in the blank) acting so off? Why does (name a character) have (choose a weapon) and was found wandering all alone in the (pick a room)? Unlike the 1985 film Clue or more recently Glass Onion, the failure of Bodies is in how uninteresting the characters are to start with and becoming less so as the film wears on, and that makes their deaths even less intriguing; they can’t even bother to be killed off in interesting ways! The zinger at the end tries in vain to apologize for everything, but it’s hard to care about the film less than the characters already do for one another.

Bakalova — Sacha Baron Cohen’s secret weapon in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — has all the makings of a final girl… if only the plot could have done more to nail down any single character’s true origin or point-of-view; instead, she’s just the person the camera lingers upon the longest, which is movie code for “could also be the real killer.” The same can be said about Stenberg — who carried the almost-flawless The Hate U Give. In contrast, the Bodies plot isn’t particularly amusing, the kills aren’t at all interesting, and the point appears to be the pointlessness — not the kindest assessment of zoomers or Gen Z (or whatever the current accepted term has become for anyone born around Y2K). What were they going for here? For what should have been a tight ensemble piece, the character dynamic changes ridiculously often, even in the same scene, with everyone forgetting whatever was happening moments earlier as the next distracting accusation flares up.

It’s a shame the filmmakers couldn’t have watched Scream 5 first to see how to better frame their film. Whether to chock all this up to a cocktail of substances, isolation without an authority figure, or just “kids these days,” Bodies leans on a terrible crutch to convince audiences it all means something clever. It’s the Thelma and Louise of whodunnit plot devices: how can we get away with pretty much whatever we want? If viewers know these people or characters like them, maybe they’ll get more out of this. For everyone else: if you can’t take the yeet, get out of the mansion.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is rated R for violence, bloody images, drug use, sexual references, pervasive language, and youth wasted on wasted youth.

One skull recommendation out of four

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