Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Horror with a dose of satire in mind

  A group of privileged 20-somethings gathers at an estate-like home that belongs to one of their parents. A hurricane party is supposed to take place against the backdrop of a brewing storm.
  Sounds like the set-up for a zillion horror movies in which careless young people fall prey to a killer whose identity remains a mystery until the end.
   Working from a screenplay by Sarah DeLappe based on a story by Kristen Roupenian, Dutch director Halina Reijin subverts the formula. Reijin builds her movie around well-captured Gen Z dialogue and a final twist that gives the proceedings an ironic boost.
   Bodies Bodies Bodies begins by introducing Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) during a prolonged kiss. Still early in their relationship, Sophie and Bee are headed for the party. A hesitant Bee worries about being introduced to folks who already know one another.
    Sophie seems to have had a previous relationship with another partygoer, the demonstrative Jordan (Myha'la Herrold). Jordan is not happy to see Sophie with a new lover.
     The rest of the group includes Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her date (Lee Pace), a slightly older guy who's not part of the rich-parent club. Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) and the party's arrogant host, Pete Davidson's David round out the list.
      Once the hurricane arrives, Reijin mixes murder and tension with laughs, including one great scene in which the  women exchange insults at a pace that's as horrifying and funny as just about anything in the movie. Insults about podcasts, mental disorders, and faux sensitivity fly like thrown knives.
      The movie's title is based on a game played before the onset of a hurricane-induced blackout.  One person, selected via a drawing, assumes the role of murderer. The others are supposed to guess the murderer's identity. 
       As expected, the boisterous exuberance of the early scenes turns darker -- almost literally. Many of the scenes are shot in gloomy darkness with the characters trying for illumination with their cell phones and glow sticks.
        And, yes, deaths abound, some of them gruesome.
        I don't know if Bodies Bodies Bodies qualifies as the definitive Gen Z satire. Moreover, the movie's cleverness sometimes cancels its attempts at generating fear.
      Bodies Bodies Bodies can be fun, though, partly because  Reijin knows how little these characters understand themselves. Narcissism trumps realization. The characters care a great deal about how they’re perceived.
       In a way, Bodies Bodies Bodies, like its title, is little more than a cinematic game -- but its well-played by a strong young cast that gives the movie plenty of zing.

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