The term “slasher” can mean a few things. It commonly refers to a subset of horror films, in which a villain literally slashes his way through a group of young, hapless victims. But “slasher” can also describe someone embarking on a non-traditional career path popularized by millenials — the term is meant to capture the slash in a string of words like “model/comedian/entrepreneur/dog walker” and is increasingly defining how younger generations live and work.
A24’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” the sophomore feature and English debut of director Halina Reijn, is an expertly crafted combination of both these definitions. This horror comedy functions as both a traditional slasher with a high body count as well as a genre-bending work that places its eggs in multiple baskets.
The movie opens with Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) bringing her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova) to meet her friend, David (Pete Davidson), whose parents own a remote lavish home. Joining the getaway are David’s girlfriend, Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), their friends Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her older boyfriend, Greg (Lee Pace). When the lights go out due to a hurricane and failed generator, the mostly benign (or at least self-destructive) Gen Z neuroticisms become malignant, as tensions rise alongside the body count.
Outside of the mysterious murders, drama builds primarily between Stenberg’s Sophie and her girlfriend, who both appear less than welcome at the house. The couple’s relationship becomes increasingly tumultuous as past conflict comes to the forefront. Stenberg convincingly plays an aloofness of conviction for her new girlfriend, one that is quickly tested by the evening’s disturbing events.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” tactfully plays as a comedy through both horror and drama. The film’s funniest moments happen outside the lighthearted banter of its pre-blackout setup. Boisterous yet also containing a light touch, the film manages to never betray its own characters for the sake of a cheap thrill or laugh — it stays true to itself throughout.
Much of this is due to the strength of the script from Sarah DeLappe; she not only uses exactly the right buzzwords, but employs them with an earnest cynicism that generates some of the film’s funniest moments. While capturing a generation’s vernacular, she sculpts characters who can stretch into parodying Gen Z archetypes without feeling pandering or overly spiteful. The refreshing script clearly respects the characters it’s portraying, even when vividly and humorously displaying their many flaws.
Notably, Sennott, in her first film appearance since the Jewish cinema classic “Shiva Baby,” continues to prove herself as a generational comedic talent. Sennott’s presence is always felt, and she provides many of the comedic and dramatic peaks of the film with a performance that feels paradoxically measured yet explosive.
Pace also shines as Alice’s much-older boyfriend, a role that plays as Davidson’s foil for the beginning of the film. The conflict between Davidson and Pace, like many contained within the confines of the luxury home, appears playful and results from the inner chaos of each character, rather than any dramatic intrigue. However, the frivolity of the movie’s interpersonal conflict hides darker secrets that are gradually and skillfully revealed throughout the film.
With a runtime of about an hour and a half, the time between exposition and action manages to ride just under slightly tedious. The film spends much of its time in a sprightly walk, allowing some light drama and character development to unfold. Comparatively, the film’s final 30 minutes sprint to successfully combine the tension of cringe comedy with the high stakes of a horror film.
Despite slight pacing issues, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” thrills as the most fun film of the year. With a stellar script and strong ensemble highlighted by Sennott’s committed performance, A24’s latest flourishes as a clever, generation-defining slasher comedy.