'Bodies Bodies Bodies' review: Agatha Christie meets Gen Z in this ruthlessly funny slasher

'Bodies Bodies Bodies' review: Agatha Christie meets Gen Z in this ruthlessly funny slasher
Mashable.com | Tech

A classic Agatha Christie setup pitches an unwelcome detective into the midst of a murder spree, calamitous as it is confined. For Rian Johnson, this meant an eccentric Southerner irking a wealthy family full of snakes in Knives Out. For director Halina Reijn, the fingerprints of Christie can be found all over her tantalizing tale of a hurricane party gone deadly wrong. With a claustrophobic setting, a star-stacked cast (Amandla Stenberg! Pete Davidson! Lee Pace! Rachel Sennott!), and a murder mystery mired in suspicion and cutting social commentary, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a playful slasher with a wicked wit. It was supposed to be the perfect getaway to wait out a summer storm. Far from the pressures of city life and parents, a batch of rich, carefree, and drug-fueled twenty-somethings convene in a sprawling mansion to throw an epic hurricane party. However, the raging rain outside proves the least of their problems when a grim party game turns to real bloodshed. As the bodies hit the floor, the remaining players must play detective to survive the night. But with all the brewing resentments, jealousies, and dark secrets between them, the quest to uncover the killer is frequently — and hilariously — derailed. A pitch-perfect cast makes Bodies Bodies Bodies a savage romp.  Credit: Gwen Capistran A crackling script from Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian (yes, the Cat Person author) swiftly sets up the group dynamic, where passive aggression, snarky asides, and false smiles all cut slyly. Behind the camera, Reijn underscores every barb by shrewdly stacking her ensemble with clever choices. Like the Christie novels of culture clashes and affluent assholes, Bodies Bodies Bodies thrusts a working-class heroine into the pack of wolfish wealthy folk. Playing a blue-collar wallflower named Bee is Maria Bakalova, who earned an Academy Award nomination for playing Borat's recently uncaged daughter in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The new girlfriend to cool and confident Sophie (a breezy and beguiling Amandla Stenberg), Bee shivers with nerves and insecurity when introduced to the already swinging party of influencers and extroverts. Poolside with top-shelf tequila, this is a smug setting where her zucchini bread offering is regarded as if it were a dead rat. Leading the crew of cool kids is hurricane party host Max, played by tabloid king/SNL comedian Pete Davidson, who brings his chaotic energy and goofball charm to the role. Chase Sui Wonders and Myha'la Herrold deliver a balance of sweet and salty as the group's eager-to-please actress and take-no-shit toughie, respectively. But the standouts in a cast bursting with charisma are Rachel Sennott and Lee Pace as May-December couple, Alice and Greg. Rachel Sennott and Lee Pace win Bodies Bodies Bodies. Credit: Gwen Capistran Sennott had critics swooning with her sizzling performance as a chaotic bisexual sugar baby in the 2020 cringe-comedy Shiva Baby. In Bodies Bodies Bodies, Alice is a self-obsessed, ditzy podcaster whom Shiva Baby's Danielle would have destroyed with a singular eye roll. Adorned with glow-stick jewelry and exploding with reactions from giddiness to terror, Sennott is a force of nature even greater than the hurricane raging outside. She's the broad comic relief amid moments of murder and mayhem, and she hits every punchline like a champion heavyweight. (He's a veterinarian assistant!”) But more than that, her vibrant panic gives Bodies Bodies Bodies the scream queen its other could-be victims are too chill or jaded or enigmatic to be. Bless her for the laughs and her screams. Then there's Greg, who sticks out by being twice the age of everyone else at this party. Naturally, when a body turns up, the childhood friends eye the old guy, no matter how sexy he is. And who better to play a chaotic Gen X crush than Lee Pace? Onscreen, he wooed us sweetly in Pushing Daisies, made us swoon for his broody lover in The Fall, and had us in awe of his Elven beauty in The Lord of the Rings. Offscreen, he's become king of thirst traps, posting pics in shorts and sock garters that are so hot they defy reason. This bizarre brand of sexual appeal is neatly folded into old Greg, who opens champagne bottles with machetes and possesses an intoxicating but intimidating swagger. Lee clearly relishes in the weirdness and hotness of the role. Greg's resulting joie de vivre is not only riveting, but also highly suspicious when there's a killer on the loose. Bodies Bodies Bodies is more funny than frightening.  Credit: Erik Chakeen And I'm not mad at that. While it's being marketed as a Gen-Z slasher, it quickly breaks from this concept, being less about fleeing the killer and more about unmasking them. There won't be POV shots from a murderer's eye. There won't be Halloween-like shots of surprise stalking or grisly slaughter. The killings mostly happen offscreen. Instead, the spectacle and suspense come from the dramatic collisions between the survivors. Accusations and justifications peppered with social justice buzzwords are fired off with devilish precision: You trigger me! You're always gaslighting me! I'm an ally! These proclamations, which are bandied about the internet with decreasing discretion, take the idea of playing the victim to the next level as the dwindling number of survivors grow more and more desperate to avoid being suspects, being murdered, or being cancelled in equal amounts. Playing the victim is how you win this game and maybe how you avoid being next. These scenes are shot with a handheld camera and lit by a medley of flashlights, cell phones, and glow sticks. Breathing uneasy energy into every frame, the clever cinematography enhances every panicked proclamation, building to a climax that is as wildly entertaining as it is violent and irreverent. It ends not in a haunting promise of a slasher sequel, but a punchline that sparks dark laughs from the audience. Though Gen Z is sent up for mockery and slaughter in Bodies Bodies Bodies, Reijn's film is not dismissive of them. Like Amy Heckerling's Clueless, the script captures the spirit and lingo of this era's youth while playfully recognizing their blindspots. We, the audience removed from the chaos onscreen and perhaps also from this age of self-discovery, are welcomed into the psychological carnage, emotional mayhem, and literal murder of these privileged, educated, rich, and nonetheless clueless young people as they clumsily collide into wounding realizations…and weapons. Like with Christie’s British snobs, we have our favorites — problematic but fun. We root for them and maybe even relate to their vanity, vices, or cringe-comedy excesses. Who among us hasn’t hate-listened to a friend’s podcast? (Not me. Totally not me.) The result is a raucous romp that balances suspense with savage humor, making Bodies Bodies Bodies a summer essential. Bodies Bodies Bodies opens in theaters Aug. 5.

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