Bodies Bodies Bodies : Gen Z take-over
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a slasher comedy film which is directed by Halina Reijn in her English language debut and second feature. The film follows a band of young people on a hurricane party gone wrong.
Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) comes back to her friend group with her girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) after going to rehab and disappearing from their lives. The audience can feel hidden tensions, built-up resentments and complicated relationships.
The game 'bodies bodies bodies' is just like werewolf in the dark. From the trailer, you would think that it's when the game starts that the killing starts. Gregg is the first to die in the game but he is still very much alive. He goes off to sleep.
It is when the lights are cut off because of the storm that things take a darker turn. They find David dead outside. Who killed David? Was it Greg? Was it Max? But we have never met Max so he feels like a too convenient scapegoat.
The girls start investigating. They don't find Greg in his room but they find his go-bag with a knife and survival items. He is lying down in the gym listening to music with a mask on his eyes. He can't hear them at first or see them which they take as an admission of guilt. They are ready to attack him. They have weapons, he does not. He tries to talk them out and de-escalate things. His fate has been sealed before they found him. They kill him to find out he is not the veteran they assumed he was. Alice tells them he is a vet assistant. She has claimed his innocence from the beginning but his nickname 'G.I Joe' and looks played against him. They judged him by his appearance and put on him their own prejudices. Halina Reijn plays with our assumptions very well.
The narrative is full of those twists. David is suspected to be the killer at the first round of the game. He jokes it would be too obvious as he is the only other white man besides Greg and he is aware of the irony. Pete Davidson represents a modern vision of masculinity with David. He is a man who is sensitive, insecure because he does not fit society's beauty criteria like Greg and aware of his own privilege. Jordan is Sophie's jealous ex ready to get back at the new girlfriend and break them up at any cost. She ends up being the murder in the 'bodies, bodies, bodies' game. The others take it as proof that she is the actual killer. Emma is the actress who is believed not being able to feel and genuinely cry. She must be acting, so what does she have to hide? Bee is the eastern european newcomer that does not fit into this very wealthy group, so what does she have to hide? Sophie is the recovered drug addict that was sent to rehab by her friends. Did she come back for vengeance?
All of them have motive and ability. They are all liars, toxic and terrible people in one way or another so we don't feel too sad or disappointed when one of them dies but we are compelled to keep watching to find out who did it and how they did it. The horror is woven with a whodunit mystery and social commentary about friendship. It is no coincidence the two first to die are the two men. The hunt for the killer becomes a literal witch hunt putting all of their interactions under scrutiny. Their relationships unravel as they try to unmask the killer. All of the resentments and unspoken truths come out brutally. We find out Alice thinks Emma is not a good actress, Jordan hate-listens to Alice's podcast, Bee lied about her life, Sophie cheated on Bee with Jordan. To a certain extent, this outpouring of brutal honesty killed them before the suspected killer did.
The genius of this film is how it depicts diverse characters without making a big deal of what sets them apart in our white, straight, classist, ableist society. There are two male characters but they fit into the group dynamic and do not take all the space which they would usually do when films are directed by men.
It brings Millenials and Gen Z to the forefront. Mental health, stereotypes and tropes, toxic behaviour, gaslighting, silencing. All the terms characteristic of those generations make an appearance.
It is an integral part of the film and although they play with what older generations think of us and how ridiculous they think we are, it feels incredibly authentic. The film is self-aware but not ironic. The actors believe in what they are playing. They are not looking at their characters ironically. All the performances feel genuine.
It also brings all those concepts that are well known to us and part of our everyday lives but are too rarely seen in contemporary films and even less in widely distributed films. It brings millenial and Gen Z culture into the mainstream. This is the coming of age of a new type of filmmakers, closer to the audience, sharing the same references.
In the film industry, according to statistics (read more on the subject here and here), a film director is a white, cis, straight man in his 50s. It means you only see a certain point of view. Because we live in a patriarchy made for them, they are unable to grasp the experience of oppression of anyone that doesn't fit into that very restrictive description.
This is why we need films with more diverse voices. Because otherwise we deprive ourselves from rich point of views that would make us look at things differently or represent us on screen. That's what Bodies Bodies Bodies does so well. Sophie is black but it is not her defining characteristic. She comes from an extremely rich family - when black characters are too often poor and outcasts which has racist connotations. The only time she refers to her being black is when she says her being an addict is an issue because she is black but for her white friends it is seen as ok.
And Sophie has a point. It makes it very effective and gives the character layers whereas when films only focus on skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, disability, they remove humanity from their characters which is not the case here. She is a complex human being and not a diversity tick box.
All of this only makes the end even better when we find out they created a serial killer out of thin air by letting their own assumptions roam free. They find out in the morning as the lights come back on after the storm that Dave killed himself filming a TikTok video opening a champagne bottle with a saber like Greg did earlier. What better ending for a generation having grown up with social media?