Rich Friends Turn on Each Other in Queer Horror-Meets-Comedy-of-Errors “Bodies Bodies Bodies”

The following Bodies Bodies Bodies review includes mild spoilers.

Ah, yes, meeting your girlfriend’s friends for the first time. A stressful time for many a young dyke. Throw a hurricane, some dead bodies, friendship fights, and one of the greatest horrors of all (bored rich people) into the mix, and shit just got even more complicated.

Bodies Bodies Bodies — a new A24 release from Halina Reijn based on a spec script by Kristen Roupenian — opens on young lovers Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) making out in the woods (a known gay pasttime). It’s the calm quiet before the storm, a rare moment of genuine connection in a film full of fraught relationships, fakeness, and social paranoia and manipulation.

It makes it a lot harder to meet your girlfriend’s friends when you’re not even sure any of those friends actually like your girlfriend.

Sophie takes Bee to a remote vacation house for a hurricane party that will soon go very wrong. There, Bee meets Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) as well as Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), who’s dating Sophie’s longtime best friend David (Pete Davidson). There’s also Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), who seems immediately suspicious of Sophie’s presence here, especially since Sophie never actually told the group chat she was coming. For this first act of the movie, we’re situated in Bee’s disorienting perspective as she navigates a group with very established dynamics as an outsider. There’s something simultaneously freeing and unnerving about being the stranger in a group of deeply enmeshed friends.

When someone proposes a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies — a sleepover-style game I’ve encountered many times by various different names, including Assassin or, simply, Murder Game — the existing group dynamics heighten and contort. (I am, for the record, an Emma in the sense that this kind of game always resulted in me crying when I played in my youth.) The rules are simple: Everyone draws a slip of paper, and the person who gets the slip with an X on it is the murderer and has to tap people to kill them after the lights turn off. If you find a body, you shout bodies bodies bodies, the lights come up, and everyone guesses who the murderer is. Before drawing slips, the group goes around the circle taking turns slapping each other before shooting tequila. It’s a sexy-scary ritual that hints at the casual and almost flip way violence is baked into these friendships.

Then, someone dies for real, his throat slashed by a blade. The only car’s got a dead battery, and the storm has gotten worse. There’s no way out, and suddenly the game turns into one of everyone pointing fingers at each other. More whodunnit murder mystery than slasher, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a comedy of errors in which destructive friendships have a deadly cost.

The movie doesn’t read as a send-up of Gen Z in general but rather of a very specific subset of ultra wealthy twenty-somethings whose inherited wealth protects them from harm for most of their lives. These are young people who have never had to fight to survive, so it tracks that they would be wildly, comically bad at survival, always taking an individualistic approach to the game when they should probably be working together. The risk-taking these characters do feels specifically rooted in the fact that they’ve never thought about consequences much or, at least, know they could easily be bailed out of any tricky situations. The friends all harbor deep resentments toward one another and are quick to turn on each other, those individualistic mindsets ultimately becoming their undoing. It’s a staple of the horror genre — especially movies with this high of a body count — for characters to make bad choices. And in Bodies Bodies Bodies, those stupid choices come from a very real place of rich idiots thinking that 1. Nothing can touch them and 2. Everybody else is out to get them.

Sophie recently got out of rehab and is sober, and none of her friends seem to care about it at all, never checking in with her about how she feels being around them as they get fucked up and assuming she has ulterior motives at several turns. Even as they dismiss it, they make her addiction about them. And Sophie isn’t a perfect character either; everyone here is flawed. Everyone’s harboring secrets and secret resentments. And even though the movie is full of heavy-handed writing, Sophie’s addiction and sobriety are handled well, without sugar-coating or vilification.

The friendships seem surface-level and bone-deep all at once. They like to party hard together, adding a sheen, but they also know exactly how to hurt each other, what to say to get a reaction. Take the drama of a group chat and dial it up to horror proportions.

As much as I’m also very here for Stenberg and Bakalova as Sophie and Bee, Sennott and Pace easily steal the show repeatedly as Alice and Greg, both fully understanding the humor and fun of the movie, which is at its best when it isn’t taking itself too seriously. When people ask Alice what she really knows about Greg, she insists she has known him long enough to know he’s not a murderer (two weeks) and that while she might not know his middle name she knows plenty of other important things about him (his moon sign). Again, it’s easy to see Alice’s ignorance both of who Greg really is and also of how bringing an older guy into this space could be dangerous through the lens of her wealth. Greg, it turns out, has a very real job, but it’s not like anyone in the group would ever care or know about that. Alice is quick to point at Bee’s outsider status while also denying her very new boyfriend could be anything other than hot and nice.

Class occasionally becomes an explicit part of the conversation, as when Alice calls out Jordan for thinking she’s better than everyone else because she wasn’t born rich but rather has “self-made” parents. Alice calls Jordan upper middle class, and Jordan reacts as if it’s an insult, immediately denying it because to accept it would be to undo the things she believes about herself and the world around her, and sometimes that’s a bigger threat to people than a house full of bodies. When characters become suspicious of the holes in Bee’s story, there isn’t some grand conspiracy at play. She’s just poor (or, at the very least, not even close to being as wealthy as the group). And the others are so situated in their class bubbles that they don’t even fully register what she’s saying and continue to dismiss her or assume she’s lying. When Bee uses violence, it’s not just out of self-preservation; she was trying to protect someone else.

Self-preservation is the name of the game for the super wealthy, and there’s little space for care or empathy among people who are only concerned with protecting their own carefree lives. I like stories about friends who are mean to each other to the point of acting feral, and this horror movie goes to the extremes on that front. The friendships still feel real even though they’re so fucked-up, because the ways in which they’re fucked-up are convincing and developed with intensifying tension.

Even Sophie and Bee’s relationship isn’t as rosy as it initially seems. Their relationship is still in that early stage where they clearly are into each other but don’t know much about each other, hiding parts of themselves so as to seem more desirable to the other. All of the manipulations, lies, and betrayals throughout Bodies Bodies Bodies — even those that are less nefarious — are dangerous games to play. Paranoia plagues these characters, makes them want desperately to see monsters where there are none, where there’s just regular, ugly human mess. And there’s something truly terrifying about the horror of not really knowing someone the way you thought you did. It’s these escalating contortions to the group dynamics and the effects of betrayal and distrust that make for the twistiest, most thrilling parts of Bodies Bodies Bodies.

The script is ultimately heavy-handed in its needling of ultra-rich young people, but a solid cast grounds the characters in specifics, breathing life into the noxious dynamics that permeate the crew and unsettle from the start. There are funny moments throughout, especially when Sennot’s on screen. And while the final twist isn’t necessarily shocking, it effectively underscores these themes of brutal individualism. The film’s a fun, acerbic ride. Like a hurricane party, danger and hedonism mix to wicked effect.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 863 articles for us.


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