Director – Halina Reijn – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 94m
A make-believe party game of murder turns into horrifying reality when pretend dead bodies turn out to be really dead and the genuine body count continues to mount – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th
Five women, three couples, two exes, one single. Seven people. Six twentysomethings. They gather in the house of one of their number David (Peter Davidson), whose absent parents are rich and the house and grounds reflect that. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) have been together maybe six weeks. David and Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) longer. Alice (Rachel Sennott) and fortysomething Greg (Lee Pace) a mere two weeks. Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) is not coupled.
This is a hurricane party – a party held following a hurricane warning where power outages are likely, so people gather together to pool their perishable resources e.g. food from switched off fridges and avoid the need to travel over several days. The script assumes the audience knows all this, but to people living outside the US this may be a completely new concept; the script here makes much use of power outages but completely fails to exploit the shared resources and lack of travel aspects of the phenomenon. Magic Mike (Steven Soderberg, 2012) has a scene at a hurricane party, but outside of that, this event has barely made it into the movies.
Having gathered, and immediately exposed a couple of social fault lines (David is Sophie’s ex-boyfriend), the seven decide to play the game they always play at these events, the eponymous Bodies Bodies Bodies, a mash up of hide and seek, tag and Cluedo. Everyone gets a piece of paper, the one who gets the piece of paper with the ‘X’ on it is the killer, who “kills” their victims by touching them on the back, after which they must play dead for the duration. The other players must then work out which one of them is the killer.
As the seven start playing the game, one of their number turns up dead. Not just playing dead, as per the game’s requirements. But really dead, as in, a corpse. Then, one character kills another in a moment of panic, believing him the killer. This leaves five women alive. With the labyrinthine house in darkness thanks to a power outage, and the only light coming from emergency lighting in some parts of the house, various characters’ smartphones, LEDs and even the glow sticks one of them is wearing, they must try and identify the killer.
Despite a clever twist at the end which might have made a great short film, this is mostly a slog. It’s hard to imagine why these self-obsessed couples and singles would want to spend any time at all in the company of their so-called friends: if Generation Z is really like this, as the production handouts claim, then heaven help us. Bee is arguably the outsider, dragged along by girlfriend Sophie, and like the audience feels alienated from the other party guests. Introverted audience members may find themselves relating to her, even if only slightly. But equally, they may well not want to spend time with any of the others.
Climate change permitting, we don’t yet have hurricanes or hurricane parties in the UK, so perhaps this is one invitation to politely decline.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, September 9th.