The heroes of Bodies Bodies Bodies both are and are not your typical slasher-movie victims.
They’re self-absorbed, shallow and stupid — that trio of S-words that, along with sexy, formed a quadrangle of death in any number of 1980s hatchet flicks.
So what makes these Gen-Z stalwarts different from the machete fodder of their Gen-X and Gen-Y predecessors? Their token wokeness that actually masks the same contempt and self-centeredness of previous generations? At least Boomers, Xoomers and Yoomers could admit their shittiness.
The answer, it turns out, is very little. Bodies infuses generational politics into its horror-comedy, a sort of Scream meets Clue meets Clueless (if the latter were updated for the 2020s). The film’s protagonists are all pretty twentysomethings gathered for a party who come from money (except for Lee Pace’s Greg, a military veteran in his mid-30s who’s dating a much younger woman).
To complicate matters just a bit more, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) shows up with her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova), unannounced, on the heels of a stint in rehab. Sophie’s sobriety flies in the face of their planned hurricane party — which means eating, drinking, snorting, smoking and being merry while the world around them rages. (In The Hate U Give and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, respectively, Stenberg and Bakalova gave outstanding performances. Both are fine here, though simmering tension between them and the group of friends feels unearned even as past baggage bubbles to the surface.)
When the group decides to play the titular party game, someone ends up dead, and it doesn’t take long before this emotionally fragile bunch starts pointing fingers at each other faster than they talk about each other behind their backs. Soon, the bodies start to stack up, and no one can be trusted.
Director Halina Reijn isn’t herself a Boomer, but you could forgive someone for thinking as much; born in 1975, she’s a Gen-Xer. Rather than biting satire, Bodies plays upon obvious stereotypes; this is a group of weak-willed snowflakes, after all. It paints its players as vapid, selfish and hypocritical, ignoring the glaring personal problems these friends face (like addiction or mental illness). Instead, it attacks them while lamenting their own situational shortcomings. Characters are sullen or outright rude to each other for no particular reason save insecurity, and insults that cut as deep as a murderer’s blade are delivered with the hands-folded self-satisfaction of a well-timed social media bar.
The deaths also arrive through increasingly ridiculous means, intended as situations as that could believably occur based on circumstance, miscommunication or unhappy accident. But taken all together, it becomes a new level in suspending disbelief, leading to a climax that searches for irony and finds it, however manufactured.
As the players bumble through this mystery, they demonstrate surface-level knowledge on many topics but fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of the actions they take, with mostly disastrous consequences. Here, they’re the narcissistic generation, getting what they deserve the same way their parents did, all for making most of the same mistakes in all of the same movies. Rather than biting satire, Bodies feels more like low-hanging fruit. Is Gen Z a bit holier than thou, snooty in an I’m-better-than-you kind of way? Maybe, but they’re also put upon socially and politically in a way most other generations are not, which makes the skewering Reijn gives them unnecessarily painful.