Combustible Celluloid Review - Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022), Sarah DeLappe, based on a story by Kristen Roupenian, Halina Reijn, Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Myha'la Herrold, Lee Pace, Conner O'Malley
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Myha'la Herrold, Lee Pace, Conner O'Malley
Written by: Sarah DeLappe, based on a story by Kristen Roupenian
Directed by: Halina Reijn
MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, drug use, sexual references and pervasive language
Running Time: 95
Date: 08/05/2022

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bawdy Parts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Halina Reijn's Bodies Bodies Bodies begins not unlike many other horror movies, with a group of friends — who don't always seem like they could be friends in real life — meeting at a remote cabin for a weekend of partying. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, The Hate U Give) arrives last, and late, with new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) in tow. The others — Alice (Rachel Sennott, Shiva Baby), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), David (Pete Davidson), Jordan (Myha'la Herrold), and Greg (Lee Pace) — are, weirdly, underwater, at the bottom of the pool. They emerge, having competed in a breath-holding contest. They are surprised to see Sophie. There's some tension. Bee's gift of zucchini bread is subtly scoffed at. A hurricane arrives.

This is, indeed, a hurricane party. The plan is to hole up in this expansive house, owned by David's father, and drink and do drugs and party until the storm blows over. Someone suggests playing "Bodies Bodies Bodies," in which someone is chosen as a "killer," and the lights are turned out, and so on. It's not long before one of them actually winds up dead, and the search for which one of them did it is on. (To complicate matters, there's a mysterious eighth character, who apparently left before Sophie and Bee arrived.) On paper, all of this is familiar, perhaps even overly familiar. But director Reijn (previously seen as a performer in Black Book and Valkyrie) and writers Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian have something much cleverer in mind.

First, the awkwardness that exists between the friends is not just a case of them being mismatched by lazy screenwriters. Most of them are bonded by childhoods spent together and by their upper-middle-class status, although Sophie and David are said to be much wealthier than that. Like many old friends, there are rifts and differences that have formed over years, and, as the tension mounts, the bickering that springs forth feels totally natural — and frequently uproarious. Innocence and guilt slip and slide around as the body count changes and new clues turn up. It tingles the synapses.

I'd love to be able to recount the plot, describing who dies first and how, and who gets murdered right there onscreen, and by whom, which only makes things seem even more complicated. But I won't. I will say that even the most devoted Agatha Christie fans will have a tough time identifying the killer in this one. It's an expertly-constructed movie, beautifully paced. The storm comes and goes, as does the electricity, and glow sticks and smartphone lights often provide the only illumination. Dark, vicious humor is sprinkled cheerfully throughout. Even though death is real, it's weirdly satisfying to see the rich being eaten.

Last year, I shortlisted Rachel Sennott as one of the year's best performers for her work in Shiva Baby, and she proves me right here. Her Alice is so hilariously clueless that it's difficult to tell whether it's a highly canny performance, or if she's really like that and merely totally uninhibited on camera. But the entire cast is highly effective, bursting with shared chemistry, and, nicely diverse besides, which I appreciate. One quibble involves labeling. Bodies Bodies Bodies is being called a horror comedy, but despite a few scenes of characters poking around in the dark and lots of blood, it's not particularly scary. It's more of a comedy-mystery, like a darker, bloodier version of Clue. Those wary of the horror genre are hereby encouraged to participate.

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