A24 has always excelled with its explorations of youth culture and social media, be it with 2013’s Spring Breakers, 2018’s Eighth Grade, or last year’s Zola. Yet Bodies Bodies Bodies, from director Halina Reijn, might be the most prescient, biting, and downright fun of A24’s dissections of Gen Z culture so far.
Bodies Bodies Bodies follows a group of seven friends who reunite for a house party at a mansion owned by the rich parents of David (Pete Davidson). Amongst the partiers are David’s actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), the self-involved podcast host Alice (Rachel Sennott) and Greg (Lee Pace), the guy she met on Tinder that the rest of the group doesn’t know. But the vibes of the party are brought down when Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), fresh out of rehab, shows up at the party unannounced with her girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova). Not only is this new couple’s appearance an awkward surprise for the rest of the group, but also this new relationship rubs Sophie’s old flame Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) the wrong way.
On their first night at the party, Sophie suggests they play “bodies bodies bodies,” in which one character pretends to be a murderer, taking out the other members of the group. But once a real murder takes place during the game, the rest of the group must discover who is actually coming after their group.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is both a continuously hilarious comedy and an eerie, uncertain film in equal measure, as this group tries to solve the mystery within this mansion. Reijn’s whodunit is bathed in neon and cell phone lights, as this group—fueled by cocaine, alcohol and drama—dives into this what is really going on, all while exploring their own insecurities and the deep scars that have been created from these long friendships. Reijn’s history in theater makes this story almost feel like a play, as we watch this small group self-destruct in exciting fashion.
Sara DeLappe’s screenplay is fittingly acerbic and uproarious, and as the blood and secrets start to spill, Bodies Bodies Bodies maintains a difficult balance of tension and humor that blend together with perfection. DeLappe also makes these characters sound realistic, and even though these characters are often parodying their culture, they never come off as unbelievable caricatures that are used as punching bags. When a character calls another “toxic” or “ableist” in the heat of the moment, it feels like a legitimate reaction that these characters would have, despite their friends lying dead around them.
But what makes Bodies Bodies Bodies such an entertaining delight or dark comedy and darker actions is this incredible cast. Every combination of characters makes for an exciting scene, as we watch their history (or lack of history) play into these various confrontations. Especially in scenes between Stenberg and Herrold, that shared past is a shadow that looms overhead, as the spite and unresolved feelings make themselves known. Sennott is particularly a joy to watch, lightening even the darkest moments, while Bakalova is quiet and timid—an attitude that immediately stands out in this frequently vapid group. While everyone else seems free to air their worries and fears about this group, Bakalova’s silence makes her a major question mark in this story. Is she actually the shy girlfriend that doesn’t know how to fit in, or is she hiding a sinister secret underneath this facade?
Also having a ball here are Davidson as David and Pace as Greg. From the moment Greg rubs David the wrong way in their initial meeting, this dynamic becomes one of the most fun aspects of Bodies Bodies Bodies. This duo is the primary source of pure comedy in the film, and it absolutely works, as David says that he “looks like he fucks,” and states that he’s absolutely more handsome than Greg. Meanwhile, Greg—like Bakalova’s Bee—is another uncertainty in this puzzle, as he seems like a guy who is just going with the flow of his new Tinder relationship, but could also be hiding something darker.
But Reijn, DeLappe, and this incredible cast make watching this group implode ridiculously enjoyable, as they’re usually obnoxious, but never unbearable, and understandably frustrating, but never exhausting. This is a tightrope walk that this cast and crew pull off impeccably, all while blending humor, horror, and mystery seemingly with ease. This is also the kind of brilliant mystery that will only improve upon rewatch, as details explored later in the film only heighten what came before it. But in addition to this mastering of doing so many things at once is a smart and sublime criticism of Gen Z that aims to showcase their actions without ever damning their attitudes fully.