The term “slasher” can mean several things. It usually refers to a subset of horror movies, in which a villain literally fights his way through a group of unfortunate young victims. But “slasher” can also describe someone embarking on a non-traditional career path popularized by millennials. — the term is meant to capture the slash in a series of words like “model/comedian/entrepreneur/dog walker” and increasingly defines how younger generations live and work.
A24’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies”, the second feature and English language debut of director Halina Reijn, is a cleverly crafted combination of these two definitions. This horror-comedy functions both as a traditional slasher with a high body count and as a genre work that places its eggs in multiple baskets.
The film opens with Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) bringing her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova) to meet his friend, David (Pete Davidson), whose parents own a lavish remote home. Joining the getaway are David’s girlfriend, Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), their friends Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Alice (Rachel Sennott), and her older boyfriend, Greg (Lee Pace). When the lights go out due to a hurricane and a failing generator, Gen Z’s mostly benign (or at least self-destructive) neuroticisms turn malignant, as tensions rise alongside the number of body.
Outside of the murder mystery, the drama builds mostly between Sophie de Stenberg and her girlfriend, both of whom seem less than welcome at home. The couple’s relationship becomes increasingly tumultuous as past conflicts come to the fore. Stenberg convincingly plays a distance of conviction for his new girlfriend, who is quickly tested by the unsettling events of the evening.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” tactfully plays as both horror and drama comedy. The film’s funniest moments occur outside of the light-hearted banter of its pre-breakdown setup. Loud but also packed with a light touch, the film manages to never betray its own characters for cheap thrill or laughter – it stays true to itself throughout.
This is largely due to the strength of Sarah DeLappe’s screenplay; she not only uses exactly the right buzzwords, but employs them with a serious cynicism that generates some of the funniest moments in the film. While capturing the vernacular of a generation, she sculpts characters that can stretch themselves parodying Gen Z archetypes without feeling flattering or overly mean. The refreshing script clearly respects the characters it portrays, even as it vividly and humorously displays their many flaws.
Notably, Sennott, in his first film appearance since the Jewish cinema classic “Shiva Baby,” continues to prove himself as a generational comedic talent. Sennott’s presence is always felt, and she provides many of the film’s comedic and dramatic highs with a performance that seems paradoxically measured yet explosive.
Pace also shines as Alice’s much older boyfriend, a role that acts as Davidson’s foil for the start of the film. The conflict between Davidson and Pace, like much of the other content within the confines of the luxury house, feels playful and results from each character’s inner chaos, rather than dramatic plot. However, the frivolity of the film’s interpersonal conflict hides darker secrets that are gradually and skillfully revealed throughout the film.
With a running time of around an hour and a half, the time between exposition and action manages to roll a little less tedious. The film spends much of its time in a spirited ride, allowing light drama and character development to unfold. Comparatively, the film’s final 30-minute sprint to successfully combine the tension of gritty comedy with the high stakes of a horror movie.
Despite slight pacing issues, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is the most entertaining movie of the year. With a stellar script and a solid ensemble highlighted by Sennott’s engaged performance, the latest A24 blossoms as a smart, generation-defining slasher comedy.
Contact Ryan McCullough at [email protected].