BODIES BODIES BODIES movie poster | ©2022 A24

BODIES BODIES BODIES movie poster | ©2022 A24

Rating: R
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Lee Pace
Writer: Sarah DeLappe, story by Kristen Roupenian
Director: Halina Reijn
Distributor: A24
Release Date: August 5, 2022

In the film BODIES BODIES BODIES, there’s a game called “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” We are told it’s essentially the same as “Werewolf.” Pieces of paper are handed out. One secretly designates the killer. The lights are turned off, the killer selects a victim, who must lay down and keep quiet. When the “corpse” is found, the finder exclaims, “Bodies bodies bodies!” When the lights are back on, everyone has to protest their innocence and vote on who they think did it.

There’s an obvious way for this to go, but BODIES BODIES BODIES doesn’t take that path. Instead, the screenplay by Sarah DeLappe, from a story by Kristen Roupenian, provides a lot of good twists (including the final reveal) in updating a venerable mystery formula.

In this instance, we’re given the reliable murder-at-a-house-party format. We are introduced to Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova), a pair of early twenty-somethings, as they are passionately making out.

They are on their way to the opulent, isolated mansion of the family of Sophie’s lifelong best friend David (Pete Davidson). David is having a shindig while the rest of his kin are away from the weekend.

On arrival, we meet David, sporting a recent black eye, his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), flirtatious Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), and trend-driven Alice (Rachel Sennott), who has brought along her new, older boyfriend, amiable Greg (Lee Pace).

We quickly learn several things, including the fact that Sophie’s family is even richer than David’s. Sophie is newly clean and sober, while David is still drinking hard and sniffing harder. Sophie is paradoxically obviously very popular with the group, and wasn’t wanted/expected at the gathering.

Obviously, everybody has secrets. There’s a full-on storm to go with the Bodies Bodies Bodies game, causing the lights to go out. Then there’s a real and bloody killing. But who did it? Nobody seems to know, and everybody starts to get paranoid.

Director Halina Reijn gets the most out of her dynamic cast. Stenberg and Bakalova, as the two most serious-minded characters, demonstrate both emotional depth and comical frustration, and Sennott is adroit as the socially tone-deaf Alice.

Reijn also comes up with great ways to inject both literal and physical light into the darkness, with tense humor and Alice’s blacklight jewelry.

What’s most impressive, though, is how the filmmakers stick the landing. As BODIES BODIES BODIES unspools, we start to wonder not only about the identity of the killer, but also, on a meta level, how this can resolve in a way that matches the tone. The ending is pitch-perfect, and what comes before is very entertaining.

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