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Bodies Bodies Updates Old-School Slasher Formula

OOne of the great pleasures of summer is the purely enjoyable and disposable horror film, which has no pretense of being “elevated” – a term that demeans the genre as a whole, anyway. Body Body Body– Dutch filmmaker Halina Reijn’s English language debut, written by playwright Sarah DeLappe, from a story by Kristen Roupenian of “Cat Person” fame – takes a while to get going, and its dialogue intentionally ambiguous sometimes makes the rhythm a bit scratchy. But the image – in which a group of friends gather in a remote mansion to party through a hurricane – has a clear sense of humor about itself and its target audience. It’s apparently Generation Z, although it could also include you and me. The film doesn’t try to explain an entire generation, but it is sensitive to the realities of young people trying to navigate the world right now. It also features such a hugely, stupidly satisfying kicker that I found myself laughing about it on the subway home.

Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, of The hate you give) and Bee (Maria Bakalova, from Borat Next Movie) are a couple newly, or perhaps only, in love; they are presented to us in a tender and dreamy introduction that captures both the thrill and the uncertainty of starting out together. These feelings are intensified, especially for Bee, when the two arrive at the party they had planned to attend, hosted by Sophie’s childhood best friend, super-rich kid David (Pete Davidson), in the closed enclosure of his family. Turns out Sophie didn’t tell anyone in this small group of friends she was coming. She also didn’t tell them she was recently sober. When she arrives, with Bee in tow, they frolic, before the storm, in David’s giant family pool. In their wet bathing suits and dripping hair, they berate her, with plenty of smiling passive aggression, for not responding to the group chat. Bee, presumably the only person in this crowd who doesn’t come from the money, awkwardly hands over the homemade banana bread she brought. Later, another guest, Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), a woman with a relentless gaze, sets Bee alone and half-warns her, half-orders her to “be careful” with Sophie.

Then the hurricane hits. Necessary preparations have been made: there are plenty of batteries (not to mention flashlights for cell phones), as well as snacks, booze and coke, with Xanax on hand for seizures. occasional anxiety. The group, which also includes David’s actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), stupid and smart rich girl Alice (Rachel Sennott) and the “older guy” Alice is dating, Greg (Lee Pace), who , others whistle behind his back, must be at least 40 years old – decide to play a favorite game. Everyone gets a piece of paper; one is marked with an X, deeming that person the “murderer”. The goal is to avoid contact with the killer. Over night – during which the lights go out, naturally – the game becomes, predictably, literal.

Lee Pace and Pete Davidson in Bodies Bodies Bodies

Courtesy of A24

Yet the filmmakers and their actors are finding ways to refresh all the conventions of the genre. As the bodies pile up, resentments and rivalries emerge. There is an exasperated discussion on the word gas lamp (has it been overused to the point where it no longer makes sense?), revelations about secret family issues (“My mother has limits,” one character confesses, eliciting coos of sympathy from others) , some wringing their hands over the difficulty of keeping a podcast going, and a light therapy mask used as a sight gag. In between, there’s a lot of teenage horror dialogue: “Wait, where’s Emma?” “I heard something!” “Don’t touch her! and the evergreen “What’s going on?”

We also get the requisite bloodied corpses and some semi-serious observations about what it means to have a job – any job – as a recent college graduate. (Even in this crowd, it’s no shame to have a gig at GameStop.) Davidson, as party host, holds court in the film’s opening scenes: with his lanky tattooed limbs , his sock-and-slide dash, his perpetually raccoon-ringed eyes — which, here, are accentuated by an underexplained minnow that, on him, looks almost normal — he’s arguably our first vitamin-deficient sex symbol. It also gets, and deals with, the film’s best moment. Body Body Body is one of those movies that wins you over scene by scene, before sealing the deal with its wondrous, ridiculous ending. To do with a group of friends you like. Or even just quiet resentment.

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