‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’: A horror movie for, and about, Gen Z

Within the smirky, squirmy comedian freakout “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” a bunch of wealthy, attractive 20-somethings throw a celebration throughout a hurricane, solely to seek out themselves trapped in a bloody charnel home of horrors.

“This is not a safe space,” quips the tagline; presumably “Haha, get it?” didn’t match on the one-sheet. Completely taken with its personal antic almost-cleverness, the film is a grisly post-millennial whodunit, graced with actors who’re reliably good whether or not they’re being slashed, bludgeoned or lowered to low cost satirical punchlines. Essentially the most revealingly ugly scene finds a handful of surviving characters clinging to a few of the Extraordinarily On-line technology’s extra obnoxious social media pieties: “I’m an ally!” “Feelings are facts!” “A podcast is a lot of work!”

OK, that final one is form of humorous. You would say one thing related about “Bodies Bodies Bodies”: It’s form of humorous and form of scary, if in the end neither humorous nor scary sufficient to maintain the 2 modes from canceling one another out. The director Halina Reijn (“Instinct”), working from a script by the playwright Sarah DeLappe (itself drawn from a narrative by Kristen Roupenian), is attempting to tug off one thing appreciably bold right here: the nihilistic crowd-pleaser, the cynically tossed-off generational assertion, the evisceration of insufferably vapid characters that in some way avoids tilting into its personal unbearable vapidity. She’s additionally bent on making a wise, artful style image that may hold you guessing, laughing and screaming concurrently — and this, too, proves its personal devilishly difficult proposition.

For some time, although, it’s a enjoyable, intriguing one. This poisonous circle of buddies (plus just a few important others) have gathered at somebody’s sprawling household property, amongst them Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, superb) and her shy, wide-eyed girlfriend of six weeks, Bee (Maria Bakalova, ditto). Sophie’s buddies are stunned to see her (she completely blew off the group texts), and some appear actively displeased for causes that the script retains beneath wraps even because it progressively ratchets up the emotional rigidity. Does it have one thing to do with the historical past of substance abuse that landed Sophie in rehab not that way back? Why is David, whom Sophie calls her finest good friend on the earth, giving off such dangerous vibes?

Pete Davidson as David within the film “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”

(A24)

The straightforward reply is that David is performed by Pete Davidson, a veritable bad-vibe artist who’s clearly winking like mad on the viewers. Along with his black eye, gentle pink hoodie and countless traces of coke, David is sort of a strung-out Easter Bunny, although together with his simply threatened ego and his knack for taking everybody down a peg, he additionally tasks an air of genuinely unpredictable hazard. He’s particularly hostile to Greg (Lee Tempo, alternately goofy and menacing), the hunky 40-ish newcomer who’s relationship their good friend Alice (Rachel Sennott), who runs the aforementioned podcast. And for sheer tell-it-like-it-is ruthlessness, David is almost matched by Jordan (a ferocious Myha’la Herrold), who makes no secret of her contempt for Sophie. A storm is clearly brewing, and never simply the one which’s set this celebration in movement.

Locking your self in with a bunch of buddies and a whole lot of booze on a darkish and stormy night time is a long-standing custom. (Whereas the film was shot at a mansion in Chappaqua, N.Y., the story’s location isn’t specified.) To move the time, Sophie persuades the gang to play Bodies Bodies Bodies, the murder-mystery celebration sport whose goal — to ferret out the “killer” — can have its personal deadly impact on interpersonal relations. Having performed some model of it myself with buddies in faculty (we referred to as it Mafia), I can nonetheless bear in mind the sport’s manner of bringing grudges and resentments to the floor, forcing us to scrutinize one another’s expressions, gestures, silences and speech patterns for clues, and to prey on each potential signal of hesitation or insecurity.

A man in a striped shirt and a man in a pink hoodie look to the side.

Lee Tempo, left, and Pete Davidson within the film “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”

(A24)

However hey, a minimum of nobody really died midgame. The characters in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” aren’t so fortunate. Not lengthy earlier than somebody will get sabered to loss of life by an unseen assailant, the facility abruptly cuts out, taking the WiFi with it. The shrieking, blood-spattered friends are plunged into darkness, with solely glow sticks, cellphones and the odd LED light-therapy face masks to chop by the thick shadows of Jasper Wolf’s edge-of-visibility cinematography. The impossibility of calling (or tweeting) for assist turns into ever extra nerve-racking as our bodies and accusations pile up and the “And Then There Were Numbskulls” plotting kicks into overdrive.

The denizens of the self-aware “Scream” franchise mocked and contextualized their ordeal by citing basic horror movies. One mumbled Russian-cinema reference apart, the dangerous boys and imply ladies in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” give little indication that they even watch motion pictures; social media apps, not movement footage, are the technological medium through which their tales can be written and recorded. Nonetheless, it’s arduous to not want that the filmmakers, if not their characters, confirmed a bit extra cinematic savvy: A number of moments of well-mounted rigidity apart, the cumulative impact of all this underlit mayhem is much less suspenseful than monotonous. For some time, you’re held by the jittery urgency of the camerawork and the jolts of Taylor Levy and Julia Bloch’s enhancing, however these can solely go to this point to disguise the truth that, from scene to shouty, shadowy scene, the fundamental style mechanics haven’t been absolutely thought by.

One of the best components of the film happen earlier than all that hell breaks free, when nerves are extra rattled than frayed, and sanity and nuance are nonetheless inside attain. Almost everyone seems to be irritable and worsening, however Reijn and her actors modulate skillfully sufficient. Sennott, the breakout star of final 12 months’s much less stabby squirmfest “Shiva Baby,” wrings just a few moments of comedian gold because the hapless, trend-chasing Alice. I particularly appreciated Chase Sui Wonders as David’s passive girlfriend, Emma, who tends to clam up and shut down in methods which can be extra humanly recognizable than the others’ queen-bee diatribes. And talking of Bee, Bakalova, Oscar-nominated for her riotous work in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” is unsurprisingly robust as a sympathetic however mysterious outsider who, like Sophie and some others, is harboring just a few secrets and techniques.

Two young women lie on the grass together.

Amandla Stenberg, left, and Maria Bakalova within the film “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”

(A24)

One in all these so-called buddies should be the killer, proper? Let’s simply say that the convenience with which everybody arrives at this conclusion — whereas an apparent whodunit conference — can also be meant to be a withering collective indictment. In an age when everybody makes a fetish of authenticity, friendships are proven to be the flimsiest and least genuine of constructs, mediated by TikTok and simply destroyed by a bootleg textual content chain. To that finish, in all probability the easiest way to strategy “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is as a film concerning the horrors of dropping your web connection.

There’s promise in that concept, and in Reijn and DeLappe’s understanding of how, even in a politically progressive, racially and sexually inclusive crowd, individuals can and do wield the language of social justice to cover their very own evident privilege. However their insights are undone by an over-the-top, over-the-banister third act whose satirical focusing on proves needlessly crude, extra by way of verbiage than violence. In a narrative which means to carry up a cracked, bloodied mirror to Generation Z, it’s becoming that the film’s contempt for its characters — undisguised and admittedly not unwarranted — winds up backfiring on itself.

‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’

Ranking: R, for violence, bloody photos, drug use, sexual references and pervasive language

Operating time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Taking part in: Begins Aug. 5 at AMC Burbank 16, AMC Burbank City Heart 6, AMC the Grove 14 and AMC Century Metropolis 15