This weekend brought the release of Fall, in which a couple of adrenaline junkies climb 2,000 feet to the top of an abandoned radio tower and find themselves stuck up there. I don’t want to review that. The premise alone is enough to turn me away, as I have very little sympathy for characters who make their own problems. Precious little gets stuck in my craw like a story about characters who are getting along perfectly well and have no reason whatsoever to go looking for trouble, then they go and make perfectly avoidable trouble for themselves.

Instead, I chose to review Bodies Bodies Bodies, a slasher horror starring a cast full of rich entitled coeds who make their own trouble for no reason whatsoever. Goddammit.

We lay our scene in a giant mansion during a huge tropical storm. So the power goes out, the phone lines are down, the online connection is gone, no help is coming, and nobody can leave the house. Oh, and the dumbasses go and leave their car lights on to drain the battery for good measure. Perfect.

The mansion in question belongs to a couple of unseen wealthy assholes whom we never meet because they’ve apparently decided to wait out the storm somewhere else. Thus their son (David, played by Pete Davidson) decides to host a party with some of his other wealthy young friends so they can all get coked up and drugged out as they play stupid drinking games and wait out the storm together.

And understand that when I say “stupid drinking games”, I’m not talking about beer pong or “truth or dare” or even boofing. (CONTENT WARNING on that link.) I mean that the characters literally take turns slapping each other as they take shots. They’re that fucking stupid.

Then there’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies”, a standard party game in which a random person in the group is the “murderer” who goes around “killing” people who play dead while the surviving players have to guess who the killer is. It’s a game with several different names and variations, from “Werewolf” to “Among Us“. Trouble is, this particular game escalates quickly when our gaggle of coeds start dropping dead for real. Hilarity ensues.

Our de facto protagonist is “Bee” (played by Maria Bakalova), a Russian immigrant who recently started dating Sophie (played by exec producer Amandla Stenberg). In turn, Sophie is best friends with David, alongside the jealous and bitchy Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), the vapid sex-crazed Alice (Rachel Sennott), and drama queen Emma (Chase Sui Wonders). Rounding out our crew is Greg (Lee Pace) Alice’s latest boy toy.

You might’ve spotted a fatal issue with this movie already. Before elaborating in any detail, it’s perhaps worth addressing the deeper root issue.

The film comes to us from director Halina Reijn, with a screenplay from Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian. This is very much a female-driven slasher horror, which gives the whole picture a refreshingly different vibe. It pays especially huge dividends when the characters are interrogating each other, pushing every possible button to try and figure out who the murderer is without provoking another killing spree.

Now for the bad news: This was the feature debut for every single one of them. Much as I appreciate what these ladies were going for on paper, I can’t help but feel that the film might have landed better in the hands of writers and directors who actually knew what they were doing.

See, the film suffers a terrible problem at the outset because I hated these characters. To put this into perspective, the other characters initially give Sophie — their old childhood friend, remember — the cold shoulder because she’s gone sober after a near-death experience and everyone is afraid she’ll insist that they all have to go through the weekend sober as well. That’s the level of trash we’re dealing with here.

Every single one of them (even Bee, though to a much lesser extent) went through the whole movie acting like a such a vapid, self-absorbed, insipid, shallow, coke-fueled little shitstain that I hated every moment with them. I hated that I had to listen to them bitch and moan about petty bullshit through the whole running time. I hated that none of them were capable of calm and rational thinking even when their lives quite literally depended on it.

Hand to God, there were so many times when I was groaning to myself “Could somebody please just fucking die already?!” And then the death wasn’t bloody or inventive enough that I could get any kind of satisfaction from the death. Though at least I did get the satisfaction of one less screeching voice taking up space.

But then came the big reveal. We had to wait until the last two minutes of the freaking movie, but we finally learn what really happened. And I’m not gonna lie, the reveal is fucking brilliant. That one big reveal puts the whole movie into focus.

At its heart and core, the real problem here is that the characters were forced together into an echo chamber. Yes, it’s certainly a factor that none of them were capable of leaving the house safely and none of them could communicate with the outside world if they wanted to. Yes, narcotics were undeniably a reason why things spiraled out of control like they did. Even so, the point stands that this is what happens when people listen to nothing but their own voices repeated back to them for too long.

The tribe mentality becomes so entrenched that anyone could be dismissed and/or disposed of for the slightest suspicion as an “outsider”. Even the tiniest lie or the most innocent disagreement or the most well-intentioned mistake spirals into something with life-or-death stakes, which in turn leads to ill-advised violence. Everything becomes so volatile that merely acting out of boredom and/or hubris can have unintended consequences on a catastrophic scale in the absence of anyone able or willing to take a minute to step back and take a fucking breath.

This is ultimately an allegory about those who can’t see past their own problems and egos. It’s a cautionary tale about those who take everything personally and see everything as a threat, on the logic that everything has to be about them. Yes, it’s a story about shallow and self-centered idiots destroying each other for absolutely no reason at all, but the ending makes it perfectly clear that it isn’t really a slasher horror — it’s a cautionary tale.

Put simply, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a social media satire writ large. The filmmakers took the basic premise of “a stupid party game, but the players die for real” and used it to ask the question “What if people argued with each other in real life like they argued on Twitter?” and then argued that it would end in a senseless massacre. I’ve got to give the filmmakers points for creativity, and I admire how bold they were in the approach.

With all of that said, this movie simply wasn’t any fun to sit through. Even if these characters are supposed to be annoying and unsympathetic for the point to work, the fact remains that I’m watching annoying and unsympathetic characters through the whole runtime and every second with them was agony. Your mileage may vary, of course, but seeing these characters get killed off and watching the movie make a coherent point of all the bloodshed still wasn’t enough for me to justify spending 90 minutes with these asinine nitwits. Especially considering that Maria Bakalova, Amandla Stenberg, and Lee Pace are all demonstrably better than this material.

Sorry, but I can’t recommend this.


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5 thoughts on “Movie Curiosities: Bodies Bodies Bodies

  1. When will this trend of filling slasher movies with unlikable characters end? It doesn’t serve a point because if you don’t care about the victims then you don’t even get any catharsis when they eventually die – it just leave the audience numb and has them wondering when the rest will be bumped off simply so the movie can end. We need protagonists that can be at least a bit likable, even if they start off as assholes but find a way to redeem themselves later. Don’t make them all jerks in an attempt to justify their deaths.

    1. I should clarify that understanding a character will always be more important than sympathizing with a character. If a character does unsympathetic things for understandable reasons, they can take a character on a wild eye-opening ride. (“I Care a Lot” is probably my favorite example, though I’d also point to “Emily the Criminal” out right now.) The problem here is that these characters are both unsympathetic AND they do stupid things for incomprehensible reasons.

  2. Interesting review. But one little passage jumps out at me here.

    “Even the tiniest lie or the most innocent disagreement or the most well-intentioned mistake spirals into something with life-or-death stakes, which in turn leads to ill-advised violence. Everything becomes so volatile that merely acting out of boredom and/or hubris can have unintended consequences on a catastrophic scale in the absence of anyone who can’t or won’t take a minute to step back and take a fucking breath.”

    Wait a minute. Isn’t the problem you’re describing caused by the absence of people who ARE willing to step back and take a breath? I think you might have accidentally slipped up there. It’s okay. I do that sometimes myself. I post something, and then I see things my internal proofreader missed, go back and edit the post, and fix it.
    .
    Anyway, don’t get me started on that mindset. We’ve got people in media and in politics who outright ENCOURAGE that mindset, and seem to make a religion out of it. Like those who calm down, discuss things rationally, and try to work things out are tools of the Devil in their eyes. I don’t have to mention any names, but I’m sure you know who I mean. Which makes cautionary tales like these all the more important.
    .
    A shame it sounds like this one suffers in its execution. Perhaps it could have benefitted from a shorter running time.

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