Bodies Bodies Bodies
This Gen-Z murder mystery hilariously satirizes today’s youngsters
It’s hard to imagine, but Generation Z is entering the zeitgeist in a similar way that Millennials did, taking the culture by the storm. Your Young Critic is still young, but is growing up. It was only a matter of time that Gen-Z seeped into cinematic stories, though what’s more surprising is that a Gen-Xer has been able to capture today’s young people so well, as Halina Reijn did with Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022).
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a murder mystery film. Seven friends decide to crash out in the remote mansion of one of their parents as they throw a party during a hurricane. One of the games they decide to play is Bodies Bodies Bodies, where an unknown person is chosen to be a “murderer” and tap out other players before they are discovered. However, when actual players begin to show up dead, the stakes are elevated.
This is only Reijn’s second feature film as a director, but the actress-turned-director is quickly showing a mastery at delivering concise and rapt performances. She assembles a cast of the most promising young performers of Gen-Z, with the likes of Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson, and Rachel Sennott. Reijn challenges herself in finding a difficult balance in Bodies Bodies Bodies, of both bringing a comedy and satire of today’s young generations while not falling into mockery. Reijn also must juggle a young generation of viewers whose attention span has shortened, but she is able to infuse enough relationship drama and a quick-moving pace for audiences to be enthralled with the film’s plot.
Bodies Bodies Bodies, however, does struggle to work as a horror film, falling into a redundant pattern of: new body, new accusation, and then everyone splits up. Reijn and her screenwriter Sarah DeLappe do a fine job at keeping you guessing, so that just as you begin to pin down who the murderer is, things are shaken up. To play around with this unpredictability would have allowed Reijn to juice out these situations for her characters and given meaty scenes for her performers, but Reijn seems to be in a rush, as if she’s afraid viewers will lose interest and stare down at their phones. As such, Bodies Bodies Bodies doesn’t work so much as a slasher flick as much as a comedic mystery.
Reijn shines most in the management of her cast. She brings together six young performers along with Lee Pace as the old odd-one-out adult in the group. Each delivers pin-point performances that at first seem like caricatures, but whose evolution allows us to see a deeper well of history and emotion. I was especially won over (once again) by Bakalova, who acts as a defacto audience surrogate in the film and who shows a more dramatic and quiet side in Bodies Bodies Bodies compared to her breakout Oscar-nominated role in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020).
Bodies Bodies Bodies works as a comedic take on Gen-Z with a sloshy mystery-thriller as its setting. I found it astounding at how well the Gen-X filmmakers were able to capture the minute details of today’s young generation, without falling into the easy situation of finger-wagging or mockery. The film suffers from a lack of genre identity, as it recycles similar story beats over and over, and yet the winning performances from every single member in the cast are enough to keep you watching and intrigued about the characters’ fates.