(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
A group of friends gather at a secluded house for a “hurricane party” and the combination of booze, drugs, and occasional power outages slowly ramps up feelings of tension, uncertainty, and paranoia until things start to go very, very badly for all involved. That’s the set-up for Bodies Bodies Bodies, but don’t think you have any grasp whatsoever on what to expect. The movie defies easy categorization. It’s a thriller with heavy doses of pitch black satire — one minute you’re gasping in disbelief, the next you’re questioning whether or not you should be laughing (but you still are). It’s the kind of film where “the less you know going in, the better,” but it’s pretty safe to say you won’t see where it’s going either way.
An enormous part of the film’s effectiveness can be credited to its cast, who fully commit to everything thrown at them through the course of one very intense evening. Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, Dear Evan Hansen) leads the charge as Sophie, a young woman with a hard-partying past who brings her new girlfriend (played by Borat Subsequent Moviefilm star Maria Bakalova) to the aforementioned gathering of friends (which includes Rachel Sennott, Pete Davidson, and Lee Pace). Director Halina Reijn (Instinct) has everyone play their cards close to their chests, and Stenberg and the others had to balance their characters’ weighty pasts with the potentially deadly present. Needless to say, it’s a wild ride.
Stenberg, for her part, loves a good scare, and found that Bodies Bodies Bodies had a lot in common with some of her favorite twisty, head-spinning scary movies. For example…
The Shining (1980)
The Shining is one of my favorite horror movies because it weaves together this terrifying and vivid landscape of the horrors of the subconscious. That’s the thing that’s the scariest, and those are my favorite kind of horror movies. I’ve just loved it since I was very little.
I’m going to say Carrie because there’s just something so special about a teenage girl covered in pig’s blood setting her town hall on fire with a crown on top of her head.
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Jennifer’s Body was a film that we thought about a lot when making this one, or at least I did. Because I think it is one of those brilliant horror films — it utilizes the satirical and meta traditions of horror really beautifully.
Huesera is a body horror film directed and written by Michelle Garza. And it’s about a pregnant woman who finds herself dealing with the devil, essentially. But the devil exists inside her. It’s a product of her psyche.
Scream is just a classic. It just has such a deep sardonic nature. I feel like, as a viewer, you always feel like you’re in on the joke. And it was one of the first slashers to kind of play with the structure of the slasher movie and make fun of it while also honoring it.
Eric Alt for Rotten Tomatoes: A lot of Bodies Bodies Bodies relies on the shared history of this particular group of friends — both good and bad. How did that sense of camaraderie develop on set?
Amandla Stenberg: I had no previous experience with any of the other actors, but I was aware of their work, which is so diverse and spans so many different expressions of talent. It wasn’t until we were on set that we actually had the opportunity to get to know each other. But this was the kind of movie where you just bond immediately. When you’re dropped into thousands of pounds of rain and 40-mile-per-hour wind turbines and you’re going home with blood pressed in every crease in your skin after screaming at the top of your lungs… There’s no way you exit that situation and you don’t end up with a deep, deep kinship and love.
RT: A lot of Sophie’s backstory is hinted at, but never really brought to light. How did you find your way into the character?
Stenberg: So much of Sophie was illustrated for me in the original draft of the script. I think the challenging thing for all of us in honing this film was making something that was terrifying, and then equally hysterical and engrossing and hilarious. In the original versions of the script, there’s a far deeper backstory presented with so much more information about this group of friends and kind of the intricacies of their past together. But I think Halina was able to bring a more European perspective as a filmmaker. She held back from illustrating every single detail of every relationship and character. So she likes to show instead of tell. She likes to play in the darkness and the mystery. I found that perspective really valuable.
RT: You mentioned the humor — it might surprise people that this movie really is a black comedy.
Stenberg: Totally. I mean, the first time I read the script, I was making loud exclamations, like a large “Ha!” with an exclamation point, kind of almost tearing my hair out at how absurd and precisely created these dynamics were. I think we all were quite nervous, while we were working on it, about how the tone would translate. And there were moments where we wanted to lean into our purely comedic inclinations with it. But we also knew, mostly because of Halina’s direction, that that actually might be a disservice to the depths of the material. So we kind of tightroped the strange tone where we gave completely straightforward, deadpan dramatic performances at times. And the idea was like — what’s so hilarious about the story is that these characters are not aware. They’re not self-aware of their circumstances, and they’re not self-aware of their fallibilities. And that is what is so funny about them.
RT: How did you guys relieve the tension after a long day shooting?
Stenberg: This is going to sound so sad, but we really did spend a considerable amount of time in our hotel rooms together, just lying down inside. I remember I had a lava lamp in my room, and a big anime pillow, and that kind of provided more homey vibes to my hotel room. So it kind of became more of a gathering point for me and the other girls. We would have sleepovers. We would just hold each other, watch stupid movies. We spent a lot of the time on set listening to music or just kind of expressing ourselves through bursts of dance. And I think there was something very feral and electric about the script, and about the story and Halina’s approach to it with us. And so I think oftentimes the way that we let off steam was in kind of these short bursts of feral energy where we were just trying to indulge in pleasure for a short moment.
Bodies Bodies Bodies opens theaters on August 12, 2022.
Thumbnail images by: ©Warner Bros., Everett Collection, Doane Gregory/©Fox Atomic, XYZ Films, ©Dimension Films