Cayenn Landau says Halina Reijin's Bodies Bodies Bodies is a self-aware dark comedy where nobody is as they appear—they're much, much worse.
What does it take to redefine the classic “whodunnit mystery” for a new generation? In director Halina Reijin’s new horror-comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies, essential ingredients involve a pack of frazzled Zennials, neon lighting, sapphic tensions, and a debilitating lack of wifi. The film boasts an outstanding performance from Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott, whose ill-timed lines of coke after witty one-liners carried its humor to climax on her bloody, glow-stick smothered shoulders. Starring an incredible cast and a mansion reminiscent of Clue (1985), Reijin hones in on sliced-open heads and throats, venomous clique dynamics, the complications of queer relationships, and the horrors of what it means to be a true friend in the age of social media.
Young and effortlessly cool Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) drives her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to her friend David’s (Pete Davidson) remote mansion for a get-together with her old friends. Sophie assures her that her clique is “not as nihilistic as they look on the internet.” She’s right—they’re much, much worse.
From the outset, it is unclear where Sophie stands with the group she’s hyping up to Bee. To a clueless Alice (Sennott), Sophie is seemingly a welcome presence. Still, a brooding Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) and secretive Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) seem less than excited at Sophie and Bee’s arrival. Bee’s subsequent exclusion by Sophie’s friends—through cryptic references, missed inside jokes, and subtle, personal digs—is indicative of the group’s hypocrisy. While Sophie’s friends are outwardly woke, politically progressive, and social media savvy, they are far less inclusive towards outsiders than Sophie had advertised.
When a hurricane hits David’s mansion, Sophie suggests the group play “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies,” a murder-mystery game Reijin described in an Elle feature earlier this month. “I have a tight friend group, and we used to play that game,” she stated. “[Whether] you call it Mafia or Werewolf or Murderer or whatever, it would always be a complete disaster. Everybody would fight each other, and it would be total psychological warfare, and all these secrets would come out.” After tensions boil over and the internet goes out, blood begins to spill. Bee is forced to watch as skeleton after skeleton emerges from the group’s shared closet—and her own. As Sophie’s true colors emerge (thank you, Halina Reijin, for reminding us that queer villainy can be portrayed as multidimensional), Bee must decide who, if anyone, she can trust.
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The mansion's walls begin to constrict around the protagonists along with its music and score. The music is a blend of satirical, chaotic hyper pop by Queer artists like Slayyter and Charli XCX, (“coke whore anthems,” as one Spotify playlist describes the genre), it transitions to plucky and fast-paced rhythms, intensifying the drama with a touch of suspense. The switch is symbolic of the group’s devolvement. To quote the film’s title theme, “Hot Girl,” by Charli XCX, “I'm a hot girl, pop girl, rich girl. I'm a bitch girl, fast girl.” The girls Bee met by the pool are gone—replaced by messier, panicking versions of their prior selves.
The final act of Bodies Bodies Bodies is a confrontation, bolstered by Sennot’s performance, acting as a vessel for Reijin to ask us the essential questions: Is applying makeup after murdering someone an appropriate trauma response? What does allyship mean when faced with the prospect of death? Are feelings facts? The discourse around these questions manifests as a much funnier, bloodier feed of TikTok comments—rife with buzzwords and familiarity while also being wholly disconnected from reality. Online debates can certainly feel like life-or-death, and here, the stakes are that high. Perhaps most interesting and indicative of the movie’s themes of self-deprecation is that most of the cast are social media stars and influencers with a young cult following. To a certain extent, within the heated conversations, the actors are poking fun at dialogue that they may have been personally privy to.
Ultimately, the film works because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It would have been easy for Reijin to turn it into a simple cautionary tale about the pitfalls of social media, the way other popular Gen-Z-aimed media has. Still, she turns completely away from the “screenager is bad” trope in favor of a new, refreshing direction: basic self-awareness.
By creating characters with apparent flaws but also clear relatability, Reijin lets us laugh at ourselves—even when things get bloody, messy, and complicated. When the people we love turn out to suck, everyone hates our podcast, nobody thinks our creative nonfiction is valid, and it turns out that our liberal friend David does keep a gun in the house, we can either laugh or commit murder. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a brilliant social satire that sets a new bar for multidimensionality, humor, and nihilism within horror. Or maybe I’m just gaslighting you.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is now playing in theaters.