By Brendan Graham
Movies don’t always turn out how you expected, and that can be both a good or bad thing. Sometimes you can be surprised when a movie turns out better than the trailer made it look, or you can feel bamboozled when the movie is nothing like the ads played it out to be. I’ve experienced both sides of that spectrum and usually, I’ll have a strong opinion either for or against what I just watched. BODIES BODIES BODIES was one occasion where I left the theater and I didn’t quite know how I felt about it. It’s a film that starts off as less of a ‘Whodunnit’ and more of a ‘Who Cares?’ but starts to develop into an interesting story piece about friendship and personal trauma towards the end. However, I wish they remembered to make it more of a horror movie and less of a TikTok-fueled character study.
In the latest A24 production, we are introduced to Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova), a still relatively new couple on their way to spend some time with some of Sophie’s old friends and party down in luxury while a hurricane is making landfall. Upon arriving at the party location, we are introduced to the party host David (Pete Davidson), his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), their friend Alice (Rachel Sennott), and her odd tinder date Greg (Lee Pace), and Jordan (Myha'la Herrold). This social media-obsessed group of friends doesn’t seem to be very excited to see Sophie and her latest love interest, especially old childhood friend David who immediately criticizes her sudden appearance at their shindig. Something seemed to have happened the previous night, and tensions are high. Drinks are had, illegal substances are consumed and relationships are immediately tested as things get wild and frisky. To break up the debauchery that may ensue, Sophie suggests they all play a game called BODIES BODIES BODIES. It’s played in a similar fashion to Werewolf, where one random player is selected as the killer, the lights are then shut off and then players wander around until the killer attacks, and then everyone has to guess who committed the murder. After a few rounds of the game and a few shots of tequila in, the game becomes all too real when the latest “victim” has been actually murdered.
Like I mentioned before, I was genuinely conflicted about the movie after the credits rolled. In a lot of ways, it is a fresh and clever interpretation of a murder mystery where the details about the characters are kept under wraps for a good chunk of the movie and certain details come to light when they are needed. The setting being a big fancy house during a hurricane was a unique scenario, and I could see a dysfunctional group of friends throwing a party during a storm, so the setup was indeed believable in my opinion. I enjoyed the frantic style of editing, the camera work can be disorienting but that also combines with the mental and inebriated state of the characters so it worked for me. The score by Disasterpiece (who also did the spectacular IT FOLLOWS score) is pretty sublime as well. I’ve said this a lot in my reviews, and maybe I’ve gotten too good at anticipating clever setups, but I found the big twist at the end of the movie was actually pretty predictable. Once I figured out what was going to happen pretty early on in the movie, the film felt less exciting for me personally but if you prefer to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride, the reveal could be pretty shocking for others. Even though it was predictable, the ending is pretty fun, so that’s worth noting.
I think my main issue with the movie, and this may be just personal taste, but I found the characters to be too unlikable to genuinely care about what happens to them. Maybe because I was never part of that style of clique, or I’ve mostly avoided social media for most of my life, but I couldn’t relate much to any of them. Sure, when personal traumas are revealed and the ways that these characters either coped with them or avoided them, that’s when I could see past their drug and booze-fueled exteriors and see some genuine heart. That may also be the traditionalist moviegoer in me that just wants more character development, even in my slasher movies. I expected the violence to be a little more brutal in the movie, it feels a bit tamer than the trailer makes it out to be, the real violence seems to be in the way that these characters treat each other. Words can be sharper than a knife I suppose.
I waited a bit longer to write this review because I wanted to put more perspective on my experience with it. If I had gone with my opinion when I first walked out, I probably wouldn’t have scored this film very high. I have come to realize that just because it didn’t meet my expectations, doesn’t make it a bad film at all. It’s well crafted and keeps its tone intact for most of the run time. BODIES BODIES BODIES has a specific audience in mind; the party crowd, the social media influencers, and the folks who grew up with so-called “fake friends”. It has strong opinions about this current generation's use of social media and the effect it has on how people treat each other, and also the consequences of jumping to conclusions. In many ways, this film is quite successful but as a slasher movie, it lacks the real bite that I personally wanted there’s still plenty to unpack here as long as you go in with appropriate expectations. Not all movies are made for me, and that’s okay, and I’m quite open to experiencing this film for a second time to see if I enjoy it a bit more.
BODIES BODIES BODIES is now playing in theaters nationwide.