DDW sets its sights on A24’s newest horror film ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’, hitting select U.K. cinemas on August 23rd, with a nationwide release set for September 8th.
After a world premiere at SXSW last March, Bodies Bodies Bodies proved it was A24’s hottest horror film for 2022. Unlike previous A24 breakout hits Midsommar and Hereditary, Bodies Bodies Bodies has an ultra-modern and unimpressed ambience reflective of the young generation that fills the screen.
A distinctly self-aware black humour is employed to explore class satire, grotesque displays and absurdity in equal measure. Posters for the film use the inclusive terminology popular on Instagram and Tiktok, only to epistemologically and literally subvert it. “This is not a safe space,” is emblazoned across black and neon images as the nature of the slasher film is referenced alongside the reality of literal bodily harm.
“[It] feels more like an R-rated comedy,” said star Maria Bakalova, an actress better known for her performance in satirist Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Alongside Bakalova, the cast varies between box office movie stars, classically-trained actors, and eccentric comedians. Heavyweights of sardonic alternative culture are front and centre including Rachel Sennot (Shiva Baby) and Pete Davidson (King of Staten Island), alongside critical darling and social activist Amandla Stenberg of Hunger Games fame.
Beginning life as a spec script by Armenian American writer Kristen Roupenian, A24 quickly saw the potential of Bodies Bodies Bodies and acquired the rights back in 2018. The primary thrust of the film was the party game ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’, modelled on similar “murder in the dark” games ‘Wink Murder’ and ‘Mafia’.
As the game necessitated stealth, deception and suspicion, it offered a wider approach to the duplicitous and callous nature of the friendships at the heart of the film. Usual rewrites ensued including collaboration from horror film director Chloe Okuno. By the time Dutch actress and filmmaker Halina Reijn joined the project for her English language directorial debut, playwright Sarah DeLappe was brought on board and the duo solidified a script that was tight, slick and utterly scorching.
Casting was crucial to Reijn’s approach to the film. While Pete Davidson was always the first choice to bring a more tragic sense to goofy rich boy David, multi-hyphenate Amandla Stenberg was cast as his friend Sophie and brought on as an executive producer. “It was very important to me, since, as a 46-year-old woman, I’m making a film about Gen Z, that I would collaborate with them and really make them part of it and make them responsible, also, for the film,” Reijn told Screenrant. “I’m used to working as a stage actress. It’s not just, “I’m going to do what the director tells me to do.
” With this insight in mind, Reijn’s Bodies Bodies Bodies is intensely connected to the current TikTok milieu, even going so far as to use the popular lockdown sound “bored in the house and I’m in the house bored” in the movie. From the very first beats of the sultry electronic score from Disasterpeace, an atmosphere akin to that espoused by Frank Ocean in ‘Super Rich Kids’ takes hold as a group of affluent young adults throw a party while held up in a mansion during a hurricane. These ‘hurricane parties’ of excess are the kind of social occasion only available to a certain social stratum. And even with cocaine and beer at the top of your essential hurricane list, what else is there to do in a mansion but play a game?
With Reijn and DeLappe at the helm, the setting becomes a hedonistic and paranoia-induced whodunnit where every death is somewhat plausible yet agonisingly avoidable. Amongst a perfectly pitched cast of insufferable young people, Sennot’s performance as loquacious podcast host Alice is a standout. Her self-obsessed dialogue is somehow filled with charisma and confidence, as well as self-loathing and insecurity.
“I was crying to my therapist,” says Sennot with nonchalance on the film’s Instagram page. “Because I think that Alice is me when I’m on a bender and black-out drunk and depressed from a breakup”. Similarly, as the online drama regarding Stenberg’s breasts continues via Instagram DMs between the actress and New York Times’ critic Lena Wilson, it’s clear that this cast is just as wonderfully acerbic as their onscreen counterparts.
The film acts as a testament to the techno-commodification of contemporary existence and our culture of excess and unnecessary ruin. With a theme written by Charli XCX reciting “I’m a hot girl, pop girl, rich girl, I’m a bitch girl, fast girl, catch me if you can girl” on repeat, Bodies Bodies Bodies is almost too aware of its Gen-Z subjects.
Yet through mordant plot twists, taut dialogue and a charismatic cast, the film triumphs in understanding this new generation – exploring the severity of their emotional triggers and their foibles in the same breath. A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies is an utter triumph of social commentary melding terror, satire and observational comedy for audiences that like their horror films with a bit of extra bite.
A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies will be distributed by Sony Pictures in the U.K. and Ireland, with the film opening in select cinemas from August 23rd and a wider release set for September 8th.