“Bodies Bodies Bodies” (R, 94 minutes, in theaters) delivers a new twist on an old genre: the whodunit.
Author Agatha Christie made a career of whodunits, in which a group of people in a confined space are murder suspects. Recently, director Rian Johnson offered his own take on this type of film with the highly entertaining “Knives Out.”
Director Haline Reign’s slasher satire “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is different in that, for one thing, there isn’t a detective trying to piece together the puzzle to come up with the culprit. Everyone is suspect, and it’s up to us, without the help of a master sleuth, to figure things out.
Also, the makeup of the group is a bit different this time. Usually, the suspects are of a variety of ages, many well into adulthood. In “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” the characters are all 20-somethings (except one). It’s about rich frenemies, some with lovers in tow, who gather to party at a mansion as a hurricane is about to arrive. This is a movie geared for a younger audience – And why not? – while also making fun of the same age group.
Sophie (Amandla Stenberg of “The Hate U Give”), who attends with her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), has had substance abuse issues and is trying to go straight. But for Bee and the rest of the group – David (Pete Davidson), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Alice (Rachel Sennott), Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) and older Greg (Lee Pace) – knocking down shots and snorting lines of coke are part of the evening’s festivities.
Things turn ugly when the group decides to play a favorite party game in which one of them is secretly designated the murderer. The lights are turned off, and – in a sinister variation of tag – it’s up to the designee to “kill” the other players by touching them, forcing them to play dead. Each time a victim is discovered, the lights go on, and everyone tries to guess the killer’s identity.
You can probably guess what happens. Eventually, someone is found dead – as in really dead. And suddenly this game becomes deadly serious. Naturally, it’s around this time that the storm knocks the power out.
Even before all of this occurs, the knives come out – figuratively, that is. There’s a lot of drama between these so-called friends, a lot of history, a lot of hard feelings, a lot of back-stabbing. The death of one of their own (and you know it won’t end there) only amps up the histrionics, and that’s where much of the satire comes into play. Amid the bloodshed, for instance, Alice gets really upset when she realizes her podcast isn’t such a big hit with her friends. The horror!
It’s funny, but, like the movie as a whole, not funny enough. Similarly, the film is suspenseful – it really keeps you guessing (at least, it kept me guessing) – but the payoff, while clever and perfectly in keeping with the film’s underlying commentary on its characters, doesn’t provide the hoped-for knockout punch.
In a way, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is like a party you might attend (minus the bloodshed). You go, you have fun, you’re glad you went. But it’s not an experience you’ll remember for long. *** (out of four)
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.