Bodies, Bodies, Bodies Review: The Gen Z Horror-Comedy Romp Is Fast, Funny, And A Tonally On-Point Terror

I know I'm not the only one who played a lot of the game Mafia as a young teen. The game is a rabbit hole that takes its participants down into the depths of groupthink and shows us who we can be at our most territorial, cunning, and primal. Enter "Bodies, Bodies, Bodies," the latest A24 horror output, from director Halina Rejin. Based on a story by Kristen Roupenian — yes, you recognize that name from that viral fiction piece "Cat Person" — the film ends up doing a lot of things well at once: analyzing group dynamics, commenting on Gen Z stereotypes and tendencies, laser-sharp and current dialogue, direction in service of an eerie, unsettling tone, and casting that meets the moment when it comes to showcasing the specifics of Gen Z. The vehicle for doing all this? You guessed it, a game of Mafia, that childhood romp that made us turn on our friends and conspire with our enemies. 

"Bodies, Bodies, Bodies" is a movie about making choices from the gut, the thing that leads us to evolve into the beast by-product of groupthink, and how that can make or break moments you never thought would be some of the most consequential of your life. It's about what those impulses can do to your relationships and friendships, and how the beast you allow yourself to become is scarier than any spooky game or terrifying tale. Real life will always be bloodier than fiction.

"Bodies Bodies Bodies" follows a group of longtime friends who have a small but mighty rager at one of their rich parents' homes as a hurricane approaches the area. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova), drive up to the mansion to surprise friends Alice (Rachel Sennott), Jordan (Myha'la Herrold), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), and Emma's boyfriend, David (Pete Davidson), which brings up some unfinished business Sophie has with her crew. Despite the tensions, the group decides to play Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, a Mafia-style game that challenges the players to discover who is "killing" the rest of the participants. But when the friends find an actual dead body, the game transfers into the real world with lethal consequences.

Gen Z's worst habits on display

As demonstrated in this movie, group dynamics can go haywire in an instant, but the Gen Z tinge on the film's main plotline puts a spotlight on one of the worst habits of the younger generation: their tendency to project. In 2022, meaningful things sometimes get co-opted to lose their definition when the stakes are raised. There's a moment after things have started to get out of control when Alice tells her friends, "You're silencing me," co-opting a phrase based in strength and representation to stand her ground as accusations fly. 

The film is ripe with these projections-cum-defense mechanisms, in line with much of Gen Z's presence on TikTok and around the internet at large. Between group dynamic, projections, and the dialogue — which is fast, fun, and brutal, like Gen Z is often known to be in their tone, demeanor, and outlook — the film positions itself as the best representation of Gen Z portrayed on screen thus far, and it most certainly is.

A major part of this success hinges on the cast, which is perfect for this piece. It's a compelling group of actors who are believable as teens of today with a lot of baggage and unspoken grievances festering inside them. We've been conditioned to keep things inside and only with the new generation have we been more encouraged to open up. This is what happens when the new generation opens up. They are fed up with holding things inside, and they will become monsters if for no other reason than to get what's eating them inside off their chests.

Acting and directing at its most collaborative

Stenberg is particularly effective as the complicated and troubled Sophie, former leader of the gang who has been a bit ostracized by the group after a stint in rehab. She is nuanced and multi-faceted in a way her peers struggle to understand, highlighting the ways in which our young people are blinded by their projections. Sennott and Davidson share the spotlight as the comic relief of the film, and their casting makes more and more sense with every ridiculous bit of slang they spout. The young comics are right at home in the Gen Z landscape with their jokes, both inside and outside the confines of this film, despite not actually being Gen Zers themselves. It's also worth noting Lee Pace's performance here, as he does an excellent job of being the complete antithesis of the young characters around him in his somewhat limited screen time. Wonders, Herrold, and Oscar nominee Bakalova round out the group, nailing the bitchy-yet-insecure, bold, and quiet stereotypes their characters fall into. Everyone in this ensemble is different, and those differences become strengths for some and weaknesses for others in the final act — but they all feed beautifully into that Gen Z mold the film places around its story.

The movie's direction is whip-smart and gives the film a great paranoid tone, constantly whipping us back and forth between characters and through rooms in time with a pulsing score. The film plays with light in a way that also aids in elevating and unnerving the audience — you're always wondering what's around the corner, and when the movie's "monster" will show its face. In truth, there is no major reveal like that, but that's not what makes the film's climax so fun and plausible. There isn't some mysterious slasher sneaking through the home, picking off the group one by one. Life isn't a movie. Instead, the much more plausible thing is what's actually going on: friends are scaring friends, confusion is taking hold, and the thing that's lurking around every corner is the depths to which we'll stoop when we think we're not the only ones. The dialogue, direction, and smart cast work in tandem to show us down to those depths, and it is that concoction on which the Gen Z parable builds a solid foundation for a unique, darkly funny, and intriguing horror. Let the games begin, indeed.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10