It's a risky and yet somehow perfect move to use hit song ‘212’ by Azealia Banks as the first major needle drop in Bodies Bodies Bodies. The singer has been at the heart of countless controversies over the years: physical altercations, online spats, accusations of racism, and some extremely misguided comments about President Putin. It’s the kind of unacceptable behaviour that seems right at home in director Halina Reijn’s smart and often delightfully insufferable slasher-comedy satire.
Here, everybody is annoying and nobody makes good decisions, which is what makes the violent chain of events unleashed upon these awful people just so damn fun to watch. It begins when recently sober Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) proudly brings her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to a party at the mansion of her longtime best friend David (Pete Davidson), introducing an ensemble that includes David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), their headstrong friend Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), unbearable podcaster Alice (Rachel Sennott), and her latest Tinder catch, older vet Greg (Lee Pace). It’s immediately uncomfortable, old friends quickly realising they just don’t like each other anymore; a (horribly entertaining) night of petty grievances soon spirals out of control when actual death joins the growing list of gripes.
"Shiva Baby’s Sennott gives a standout performance with her grating, desperate narcissism."
For anybody who’s had the misfortune of spending any amount of time on the internet lately, this whodunnit feels fresh for the genre but painfully familiar tonally. Jokes often hinge on the subversion of social-media buzzwords, real issues mutated into online culture wars: gaslighting, triggering, silencing, safe spaces, seasonal depression and astrology-as-religion all get skewered. Or, rather, the social-media tendency to amplify said issues to the point that they define your entire personality. “Congratulations, you have a Twitter account!” David spits to Emma —and seemingly berating us, the audience, for having one too.
There are just as much, if not more, opportunities to laugh at these terrible rich kids as there are moments of horror. Shiva Baby’s Sennott gives a standout performance with her grating, desperate narcissism, but the whole group hit the delicate blend of detestability and incompetence almost perfectly. The tone might not work for everyone — but the extremes are what makes it so interesting.
To spend so much time with such wretched characters might feel like too much, if the film wasn’t so well made. Reijn deploys violence with slick, stylistic flourishes, as glow-sticks and phone torches give the night a tension that’s more skittish than eerie, and video-game composer Disasterpeace blends dirty pop and twinkling melodies to pump a constant discomfort into this never-silent night. Even though things will always be more horrible for them than for you, the skill of Bodies Bodies Bodies is to make it feel like somebody really could be waiting in the shadows once the noise has stopped. Being cancelled is bad — being murdered is worse.