Baltimore Sun

Reijn’s horror flick an impressive, cutting look at modern existence

- By Katie Walsh R (for violence, bloody images, drug use, sexual references and pervasive language) 1:35 In theaters

From the sticky, slippery opening frames of “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” director Halina Reijn lets the audience know that we’re in for one silly-smart and deeply self-aware roller-coaster ride. This blackly comic horror riff is heavy on the social satire and sprinkled with scares, as Reijn, along with writers Sarah DaLappe and Kristen Roupenian, have pulled together and reinterpre­ted traditiona­l horror tropes in order to send up the youth of today. The result is a film that’s a true triple threat: stunning, smart and wildly entertaini­ng.

“They’re not as nihilistic as they seem on the internet,” Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) reassures her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova), en route to a “hurricane party” at the mansion of her childhood best friend David (Pete Davidson). Bee, with her quiet demeanor, accented English and humble, tomboyish clothing, is very different from Sophie and her longtime posse of outrageous rich kids. Sophie has her own sordid history with the group, and the tension among them bubbles, roiling to a boil throughout the long, bloody night that ensues.

Set within this coterie of chatty, privileged, quasi-sociopathi­c 20somethin­gs, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is the Zoomer offspring of its Gen X parents’ “Scream” and “Shallow Grave.” It also follows certain folk horror tropes that have been mainstream­ed in films like “Get Out.” Bee makes her way into the inner sanctum of a closed, cult-like group, becoming inculcated to their rituals and mischief-making, in this case, a game called Bodies Bodies Bodies. The game draws out jealousy and long-simmering conflict, and escalates the toxic atmosphere, which is aided by the hurricanei­nduced power outage.

The young cast tackles the script and their performanc­es energetica­lly. “Shiva Baby” star Rachel Sennott is a standout as the vapid, but often insightful Alice, while the always reliable Stenberg is fantastic playing against type, and “Borat” star Bakalova proves she’s no flash in the pan.

But what makes “Bodies Bodies Bodies” so electric is Reijn’s excellent direction. Smartphone­s are integral to the plot, but they are also extensions of the character’s bodies and brains.

Reijn and cinematogr­apher Jasper Wolf use phone flashlight­s as the primary light source in the darkened estate, which is a plausible choice for the characters, plus it makes for delightful­ly rich images. It’s an evolution of the chiaroscur­o lighting of film noir and German Expression­ism of the early 20th century that set the template for the horror aesthetic we know today, but “Bodies Bodies Bodies” doesn’t look like any other horror movie out there. Reijn’s use of space, light, shadow and the bodies within the space is wholly unique, beautiful and spooky.

We come to realize that what’s truly scary about “Bodies Bodies Bodies” are the absolutely chilling insights about the world we live in. It’s the collective hysteria, narcissist­ic myopia and casting of blame that fuels the bloodshed, reminding us that the only thing to fear is fear itself. It’s a worldview that is as bleak, absurd and yes, nihilist, as the whole world feels right now, perfectly capturing this moment.

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 ?? ERIK CHAKEEN/A24 ?? Amandla Stenberg, from left, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders and Rachel Sennott in the blackly comic horror riff“Bodies Bodies Bodies.”
ERIK CHAKEEN/A24 Amandla Stenberg, from left, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders and Rachel Sennott in the blackly comic horror riff“Bodies Bodies Bodies.”

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