Jhere’s plenty of nasty late-summer fun to be had in A24’s slasher Bodies Bodies Bodies, a mix of gore and laughs that aims to deliver the same poppy jolt that Scream did in 1996 at a time when the genre receives a surprise resurrection. But while recent hits such as Halloween Kills and Scream 5 have mostly rubbed shoulders with nostalgia, replaying the same old hits, stabbings and beheadings, Dutch director Halina Reijn’s English language debut begs the difficult question of whether there is something really New to do with the stalk-and-slash format most of us are familiar with, or perhaps too familiar with. After 95 mostly effective minutes, the answer would probably be a maybe?
Based on an original spec script by Cat Person writer Kristen Roupenian and later given a dramatic rewrite by Pulitzer runner-up and playwright Sarah DeLappe, Bodies Bodies Bodies is an old dog with a flashy new trick up its sleeve. The setup is one that, pleasingly, draws on familiar whodunit tropes – a group of friends, an old lonely house, a looming storm – but there’s a novel, if not entirely surprising, final act that sets it apart. separate. a crowd. I’d say that once all the cards are played, it’s a movie that’s easier to admire than love, a trick to grudgingly applaud rather than applaud.
After another summer season of frustratingly shy but sufficiently publicized moments of LGBT representation (a look! a suggestion! a desire!), it’s a refreshing statement of intent to begin with an extended, close-up, full-on kiss. language between two women. As with many elements of Bodies Bodies Bodies, there are no half measures in the way it deals with its homosexuality, two gay protagonists who continue to have other gay flirtations and gay entanglements throughout, yet another example of how the horror genre has embraced queer fire characters (see also: They/Them, the Fear Street Trilogy and the M Night Shyamalan sequel). It’s a big trip for Bee (Maria Bakalova), nervous about meeting his new girlfriend Sophie’s (Amandla Stenberg) friends, with the pair heading to the lavish mansion owned by the parents of the obnoxious best friend of childhood of Sophie, David (Pete Davidson). But they’re greeted with dropped jaws by the group (industry’s Myha’la Herrold, Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott, Chase Generation Survivor Sui Wonders and Lee Pace) palpable and awkward surprise, as well as annoyance. , that Sophie shows her face, especially after being so unreliable on the band text…
But as the storm sets in, debauchery takes over and the group drinks, smokes and snorts their way through an uneasy truce. As the only sober, having recently left rehab, entertainment-hungry Sophie decides it’s time to play a game: Bodies Bodies Bodies. The rules are simple: everyone gets a piece of paper, one is marked with an X meaning they are the killer, then the lights go out.
It doesn’t take long for the bodies to start piling up for real, but what reinvigorates a familiar formula is an unusually firm understanding of the character, something even the best slasher movies don’t even care about. . In a genre where someone with a last name equates to character development, there’s relative heft here with a set of clearly drawn, albeit tasteless and/or deeply unlikable, twenty-somethings that bitch and sting as they go along. the number of deaths increases. The incredibly boring first trailer was something of a red flag, suggesting a movie that conflated buzzwords with satire (triggered! Safe space! Gaslighting!) but the script is much more deft and less petty than that doesn’t suggest it. The movie isn’t desperately trying to provide some sort of social commentary/dissertation on Gen Z right now (the characters just…are) and it’s much better for it, especially in a time when too many movies horror awkwardly take many more. that they really can’t handle.
DeLappe’s specific, thorny dialogue gets an extra boost from one of the best-orchestrated sets in recent memory, with Sennott the real standout, providing comedic backing without overplaying, even turning throwaway lines into zingers (it’s is only a rather tedious Davidson providing the bum notes, playing squeaky to tap again). So many “cool” horror movies in recent years have been made with a certain chilling withdrawal, as if the goal was to impress rather than immerse, so it’s gratifying to see Reijn lean into the hokey extremes of spooky situation with an Agatha Christie location would approve, and enough thunder to make us think a real storm is raging around us. It’s only in the last act that things start to fall behind, as we head towards a reveal the film isn’t quite able to handle, a twist that requires significant suspense gaps. and tension for reasons I can’t go into. It builds on a moment of absurd comedy at the very end that didn’t work for me, and the overwhelming feeling that remains is emptiness. It’s nice but dramatically unsatisfying.
Mysteries require so many moving parts to expertly place and play, and ultimately the script isn’t as sleek as it should be with a board as ambitious as this. The game is fun, but you might feel a bit cheated once it’s over.
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