Drunk and high at a rich kid mansion, Bee (Maria Bakalova) tries to make sense of the friends she has just met who have decided to make the most of a hurricane by throwing a small party. The group of 20-somethings is Euphoria-level messy, and her girlfriend Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), who has a long history with everyone but whose presence isn’t exactly welcomed, eggs them on to play a game known to cause drama and tears. The game is Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, which the A24 dark comedy horror takes its title from, and as people-pleaser Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) points out, playing only ends up with someone crying. But when the game turns into reality, their fear and distrust of each other has deadly consequences.
There’s a disturbing tendency to cause pain to the people you’re closest to (aren’t the most vicious fights we have with our family and closest friends?) and to those whom you’ve spent years pretending to like. And after the first real body shows up, the safety and security assumed from years of friendship fly out the window. Every BFF is a suspect, and the little things you never trusted about your friends but usually overlooked are magnified.
Bodies’ horror may seem like it comes from the usual slasher vibes and jumpscares we’ve come to expect from the scary movie genre, but the true scare comes from examining the self-destruction we cause when lies and deceit colour our relationships to those closest to us. Instead of a threat of a Michael Myers, all the danger comes from inside their relationships. “Their paranoia is the monster,” Rachel Sennott, who plays the oblivious Alice, tells Refinery29. “I've seen that in life, fear drives people to do crazy things.”
It’s this crucial Lord of the Flies dynamic that makes the whodunnit all the more disturbing. Who are we, really, when shit hits the fan? Who are we to our loved ones when nightmares become real?
It’s a uniquely 21st-century form of horror in a social media age. We comfortably and easily throw “Love ya!” and heart emojis in the comments of curated profiles and posts, but all seeming intimacies go out the window once you take away cell service and throw in dead bodies. “Isn’t that the biggest horror: to live in a fictional world with [people you call your] friends just because they’re on your friend list?” Maria Bakalova asks. “The real horror of the film is the insecurities and the lack of trust that the characters have,” adds Amandla Stenberg. “What is most terrifying about the movie is the degree to which they are not able to trust each other.”
The movie transported me back to senior year of high school, when sitting in a friend’s basement, I played a similar friendship-ruining game. Much like the name implies, Paranoia is the perfectly destructive way to find out your friends’ true perception of you — and guaranteed to ruin a few friendships. Games like this let us indulge the morbid curiosity of what the people we confide in actually think about us — even when we know the truth will only make us miserable.
Bodies might be biting satire of today’s generation, but it’s also the kind of anxiety-inducing unsettling thrill that leaves you re-evaluating all of your friendships, both online and off. But in the meantime, think twice before staying in a remote house during a natural disaster with people you may love but certainly don’t like.
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies opens in Australian cinemas on 15 September 2022.