Hurricane “Horror-Comedy” for the Flippity-Dippity set


Barely being able to make out who’s who while watching young people fumble around with flashlights while looking for a generator in the dark was tiresome in 1980 when Friday the 13th did it.  Bodies Bodies Bodies, the latest entry in the A24 cinematic universe, is also a contained and bloody murder mystery of sorts, although it does an admittedly better job of cultivating its plot than the classic slasher does.  But that proves to be a low bar that’s simply differently cleared.  Whodunnit?  Dunno.  The next question then inevitably must be, “Who cares?”.  That’s the real corker.

Former SNL personality Pete Davidson, quickly approaching the end of his inexplicable fame, seems to be the film’s biggest external selling point.  He plays David, a grown-up rich super-kid who is hosting a hurricane party for a handful of his not-quite-as-rich friends.  (Played by Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace- all very good with what they’re given).  To label the characters self-absorbed would be reductive to self-absorbed people who are actually interesting.  In their own individual Gen. Z social-media-saturated screen-addled empty-self myopic drift, each one is more insufferable than the next. As the storm breaks, they decide to start with a round of their favorite macabre party game, bodies bodies bodies. (Basically, it’s tag with an unknown killer).

Just as bodies bodies bodies ramps up with all manner of “who’s the killer?” debate, Bodies Bodies Bodies gets real.  With a table-full of flashlights and batteries, our partiers are well prepared for the electricity to go out.  Which it does.  But the wi-fi going out… which it also does… that’s an altogether different cataclysm.  Not great when they’ve suddenly got a real dead body on their hands.  Who’s the demented killer?  What’s their motive??  Does bodies bodies bodies have anything to do with it???  How long before they kill again????  Is there a signal yet?????

Despite the layered-on of-the-moment youth culture trappings, the boiling-point paranoia and the desperate search for logic amid the Agatha Christie-esque chaos feels awfully familiar.  But instead of witty and dapper archetypes cloistered in a stately manor, we’re stuck with an irritating group of empty shells who can only fray at their many seams.  Finding and applying logic is far from having ever been any of their forte, particularly when drugs and alcohol are in the mix.

Directed with handheld looseness by forty-six-year-old Dutch actress-turned-director Halina Reijn, maybe there should be little wonder that the tropes are nowhere near as fresh as the contemporary trappings would have us believe.  There’s something about that attention-grabbing title (what if this exact movie had a title like “Hurricane Death Party” instead?) and that kewl thumping score by go-to indie horror movie musician Disasterpeace and the showy casualness of lesbian affection and matter-of-fact drug usage… the terminally blasé characterizations across the board… all their talk of toxicity and being an ally and who’s gaslighting who and hate-listening to another’s podcast…  It’s all working too hard to convince us of its satirical commentary.  What’s the commentary?  I dunno.  Get your head out of your ass?  Don’t be stupid?

The last few minutes of Bodies Bodies Bodies might be why this project got the green light.  There are some clever ideas plopped in there.  The problem is having to sit through entire rest of this mean-spirited “horror-comedy”.  These glorified caricatures in this situation would be more at home in a ten-minute SNL sketch.  The comedy success ratio could remain exactly the same and be right at home.  Instead, we find ourselves trapped with Pete Davidson and company in an altogether different home… the McMansion of muddled mystery!