Bodies Bodies Bodies is a fun fun fun version of Clue for the TikTok era

Even if it devolves into some contemporary social media cliches, Bodies Bodies Bodies will slay audiences with its highly topical blend of horror and comedy. Eliza Janssen likes, subscribes, and comments below.

Here in Australia we call it “banter”: the kind of belittling, too-personal joking around that happens a few drinks deep, where if you can’t handle a jab (emotional or physical) you’re just being a buzzkill. Annoying Gen Z characters are both buzzed and killers, in Halina Reijn’s English-language debut, set in an ostentatious suburban manor during a debauched “hurricane party”.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is the name of tonight’s game, a murder-in-the-dark or Werewolf-style social romp in which frenemies must race around with flashlights and figure out who has been arbitrarily chosen as the murderer. But as a real body count piles up and the mansion’s power and phone reception die off too, is the gameplay really arbitrary—just a bit of banter? Or is it the outward expression of countless petty personal grudges?

With that worrying question fuelling its mild scares and spiky relationship drama, Bodies Bodies Bodies begins to resemble Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, another stereotype-ridden horror-comedy that Luke Buckmaster rewatched and praised here. This time around, those foolish screaming college kids are the victims and villains in one all over again, each bearing a certain amount of problematic strikes that could mark them as the killer player taking a Dionysian drinking game way too far.

Main couple Bee (Maria Bakalova, endearingly wide-eyed again) and Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) begin the film in a moment of sensual, phone-free bliss: enjoying each other’s bodies (bodies bodies) before their perceived past and present transgressions ruin everything in the larger social group. When Bee doesn’t say “I love you” back to Sophie, we’re already nervous from the jump that their romance won’t survive the coming storm, and they indeed end up wrestling in the mud, trying to grab a gun and Sophie’s phone with equal desperation.

Pete Davidson (tats mostly covered up, destined to die early on because of his current celeb status) is the rich, jealous host who’s too cowardly to break up with the girlfriend (Chase Sui Wonders) he resents. Myha’la Herrold (from TV’s Industry) is the group’s resident psycho (although another character quickly calls out that term as ableist), holding newcomer Bee’s gaze a little too long. MVP and Shiva Baby scene-stealer Rachel Sennott is a clueless wannabe ally, and her much-older Tinder BF Lee Pace is “a vet”, making the younger kids nervous of his hidden capacity for violence or PTSD.

Since this is a house of superficial, moneyed-up NYU Caroline Calloway-alikes, any marker of privilege or relevant TikTok pseudo-psychology buzzword weighs heavily (“he’s a libra moon, that says a lot!”). It adds a fun, contemporary relevance to the And Then There Were None story structure, but it can also feel contrived, and will date the film horribly.

By act three, when the survivors are verbally tearing down each other’s podcasts and upper-middle class parents, punctuated by a stereotypical snowflake defence that “feelings are facts”, you get the sense that the script was written by someone born in, ugh, the 20th century (a crusty old senior, basically). It’s not quite as tuned in to the status-obsessed world of the characters as their uniformly wicked, funny young performers are.

In fact the film was originally written by in-demand Cat Person writer Kristen Roupenian, with teen drama playwright Sarah DeLappe eventually receiving sole screenwriting credit. That short story’s disarming satire is done less cleverly here, with both horror and comedy feeling disjointed at times: trendy rather than boldly original. Films on either side of that genre blend, like Scream and Clue, manage to keep us on our toes with clear plotting and motivations, even if we’re really only here to be spooked or entertained.

The gang’s problem-solving and suspicions slacken in the film’s middle act, after a deliciously sanguine scene in a red-lit basketball court: the pretence of a nasty game gone wrong is sadly lost, giving a feeling of those aimless Scooby Doo hallway chase scenes for a while.

Luckily, a Tucker and Dale-esque final twist brings all the mirth and murder home, once and for all disproving Sophie’s disclaimer that her friends “aren’t as nihilistic as they appear on the internet”. If you’re down with the topical vernacular and Charli XCX opening track of Bodies Bodies Bodies, you’ll have a grand old time, despite some sluggish or unimaginative moments. Or you’ll be that bit more willing to play the buzzkill if your mates ever suggest slapping each other violently in the face before downing shots.