Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival
Every now and then, a horror film will come along and decide to basically just roast the current generation and all their eccentricities. Usually, it’ll do this by having a bunch of characters that are stereotypes from that specific era and then pick them off one by one, it’s effective and it works pretty well. The 90s were perfect for this, notably with films like Scream and Urban Legends that filled their films with irony poisoned teens and made fun of them while also giving us a high body count. It was only a matter of time before the current generation was going to get their own pointed ribbing by the horror genre and finally, Bodies Bodies Bodies delivers the ribbing that is well deserved with a side serving of… well, bodies.
Bodies Bodies Bodies takes place during a hurricane party where a small group of 20-something gen-Z kids get locked in a mansion and have to play a fun game called Bodies Bodies Bodies. The game is simple, everyone picks a piece of paper out of a pile and one of those papers has an X on it so whoever has the X is the killer. They then have to turn the lights out and sneak around, the killer taps someone on the back and they die, someone finds them and yells ‘BODIES BODIES BODIES” and everyone comes to guess who the killer is. Seems like a fun way to spend the night… until people start turning up dead and thus begins the unravelling of the friend group as they try to work out who among them is an actual murderer.
Without a doubt, Bodies Bodies Bodies is one of the funniest horror films of the year. This is the roast of Gen Z that has been desperately needed for a while and it’s genuinely hilarious without being cruel about it. It feels like the members of Gen Z making fun of themselves and inviting the audience to laugh with them, taking some of the things people use to mock their generation and turning it up to 11 and making the jokes better than anyone else could. This cast of assorted queer multi-racial feminists are taking every joke about their generation and having fun with it, using it to enhance the story of this wonderful little comedic slasher.
It does take a little while to get to the actual horror element, Bodies Bodies Bodies bucking the classic slasher trend of the shock opening kill to instead set everyone up as much as possible. With a limited cast of 7 people, we get to know and love these characters (or at least like them a fair amount) before the bodies begin stacking up in wild succession. Once they start piling up, we get an exciting mystery of who the killer is, one that’s entirely possible to solve with a very fun finale that fits the Gen Z vibe… it’s all a very elaborate joke about judging situations without full context and it works if you’re willing to go along with it.
It also helps that the cast is just completely committed to the fun of it all, every one of them delivering just tour de force performances that match the tone of Bodies Bodies Bodies perfectly. Oscar nominee Maria Bakalova shows that while she might’ve been hilarious as Borat’s daughter, she can also be a total scream queen as the character of Bee and basically anchors everything going on into some sense of realism. Every scene she shares with Amandla Stenberg is just amazing, Amandla playing Sophie who is probably the emotional core of Bodies Bodies Bodies and they deliver one of those scene-stealing performances that just works all the time.
There are also the three other fantastic women in Bodies Bodies Bodies, who each have some incredible moments. Myha’la Herrold as Jordan is basically the one who keeps pushing the film to go even darker, especially towards the end where she just calls the shots and takes charge in a way that’s horrifying and hilarious. Chase Sui Wonders as Emma is admittedly a more subdued character, but she has this undeniable sweetness that makes you love her unconditionally.
The absolute stunner of Bodies Bodies Bodies is Rachel Sennott as Alice, a wannabe podcaster who is the comedic highlight of the film. Every line she has is hilarious, every scene she appears in is stolen by her in seconds and every time they need someone to be the avatar of the generational issues they run to Alice because she will deliver every time. Honestly without her in the film, it would not work on a satirical level because she basically has to be the supercharged version of every cliche you can think of but somehow keep it from being too silly – and damn it does she pull it off.
Rounding out the cast are the two men, Pete Davidson and Lee Pace who really don’t get much to do but they make sure the limited time they’re used works. Pete particularly kinda kills it as Sophie’s childhood friend who is still trying to be a good friend despite all their past problems. The odd one out of the cast would be Lee Pace who plays the surprise older boyfriend of Alice (as in 20 years older, at least) and has to pull off the wild dichotomy of being unthreatening for most of the time until we need to be suspicious of him, and also being just off enough that it’s creepy to see him dating a 20-year-old. Bodies Bodies Bodies knows we shouldn’t really be OK with a 40-year-old dating a 20-something but never really calls it out, it just lets the weirdness sit there being a problem and it kind of works.
Most of the time, Bodies Bodies Bodies is more of an outright comedy like a darker bloodier Clue, though with slightly less iconic quotable lines (To be fair, no one will match something as iconic as “Flames on the side of my face”). It certainly uses the classic slasher tropes well to elevate the comedy but the film isn’t afraid to kill the tension if a good joke appears, which sometimes works really well and other times falls down hard. It’s jokes about a young generation where all the jokes are, essentially, about being oversensitive and triggered all the time and there’s times when that works well but other times when it feels like it’s tacked on because it’s been 90 seconds without a laugh. The comedy overshadows everything and while it’s still really great, it’s hard to deny that there’s times you want them to lean a little more into the other end of the comedy-horror mashup they’re trying to do here.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a sharp loving jab at the current generation that’s just a lot of fun. It’s witty and smart, endlessly enjoyable with some great performances by an incredibly game cast who elevate the material easily. It’s fun, exciting and thrilling with an ending that’s either going to make you howl with laughter or piss you off (this kind of ending always has those two extreme reactions, never anything in between). An undeniable inevitable cult hit that is sure to make for a fun viewing with a bunch of friends who can laugh at themselves.