“Bodies Bodies Bodies” (A24), the English-language directorial debut by Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn, is everything and nothing that you expect it to be.
Yes, it has a cast of (mostly) young actors romping around a mansion during an impending hurricane. Yes, cell phones and apps are central. Yes, there are drugs and alcohol aplenty. Yes, there are hot bodies (hello, out actor Lee Pace), as well as the titular “murder” game. Yes, there is a mounting body count. But “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is much more than that, including an intense look at female friendships, petty jealousy, and how even with nearly unlimited tech at their disposal, communication still breaks down.
Sophie (queer actress Amandla Stenberg) and her significant other Bee (Maria Bakalova, of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” renown), who have been together about six weeks, are heading to the estate owned by Sophie’s best friend David’s (Pete Davidson at his goofiest) father. Also present are Alice (Rachel Sennott, who is straight, but played queer in “Shiva Baby”), her much older new boyfriend Greg (Pace), David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), and Jordan (Myha'la Herrold). Missing is Max (Conner O’Malley), who took off after an altercation with David.
Sophie, recently back in circulation after a stint in rehab, comes from money, like David. The difference is that Sophie has been cut off by her family. Nevertheless, after some initial awkwardness, Sophie and Bee are welcomed by their host and the clique. There is dancing and laughter, although there is tension between David and Greg.
To break the remaining ice, Sophie suggests a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies, in which an unnamed player is the killer and, following the first “death,” the surviving players must guess the murderer’s identity. Pretty soon, around the time the power fails due to the storm, the property begins to be littered with real dead bodies. First David, whose throat is slashed. Then Greg, whom the girls think killed David. Then Emma, and so on, until only two of the young women remain.
In the lead-up to the massacre, each of the guests begins to reveal the mistrust and, in some cases, the true dislike they have for each other. Ugly words are exchanged. Infidelities are exposed. Feelings are crushed. Accusations and insults fly, and relationships are irreparably damaged.
The genius of Sarah DeLappe’s screenplay (based on the story by Kristen Roupenian), is that the penultimate revelation brilliantly incorporates the handheld tech on which these characters depend. It’s a conclusion that is as hilarious as it is horrifying.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.