SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” now playing in theaters.
A24’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies” starts with seven young partiers drinking, doing drugs and hooking up during a hurricane party, but the debauchery turns deadly as the night goes on, until just two people are left alive.
Young lovers Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) may be the only two survivors of this Gen Z massacre, but the trust between them is completely broken. Before falling to her death, Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) reveals to Bee that she and Sophie slept together before the party, which Sophie denies. But after finding Jordan’s underwear in Sophie’s car, Bee isn’t so sure. Sophie’s trustworthiness is then further called into question after she claims she had discovered Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) dead at the bottom of the stairs — which was a deliberate reference to the real-life murder case in “The Staircase,” director Halina Reijn reveals to Variety.
In a spoiler-filled conversation, Reijn breaks down the major deaths in “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” how we should interpret the ending and why she wanted to kill off the two men, David (Pete Davidson) and Greg (Lee Pace), first.
How I interpreted the ending is that Sophie is lying about not sleeping with Jordan, and Bee knows Sophie is lying because she found Jordan’s underwear in Sophie’s car. Is that right?
Sophie’s character is based on a character called Platonov, a Chekhov character. He’s on stage the whole time and he has relations with all the other characters and is hiding everything. Sophie is a love bomber. Sophie is the one we all fall for and then she’s very obsessively in love with Bee, but she can also be obsessively in love an hour later with someone else. With almost everyone, she has a history or a flirt, even with David, she says he used to be her boyfriend in high school. Everybody has a relationship with her. In my mind, she definitely has something going on with Jordan still.
So should we believe Sophie when she says she found Emma dead at the bottom of the stairs?
Yes, I feel we do. That death was inspired by “The Staircase” documentary, which I was obsessed with. It was a tribute to it. Also in “The Staircase,” the question was, “Was she under the influence of alcohol, how much alcohol did [Michael Peterson] give [Kathleen Peterson]?” I think Sophie feels guilty and she accidentally contributed to her death. It was important to have that moment because the viewer should be able to go back and watch, and it should add up.
Who shot Alice (Rachel Sennott) when they were all fighting for the gun? My guess is it was Jordan.
I think they were struggling; it was like a human ball. I honestly think the gun went off and none of them really know, but if anyone is guilty I feel it was Jordan. But I don’t think she shot her on purpose. What she does do is clearly shoot her in the leg and says, “Did you just shoot me?!,” which is one of my favorite moments.
What are some of your other favorite lines? I loved the podcasting bit and when David makes fun of gaslighting.
That whole block of text he has there was always my favorite on the page. It’s so genius because it’s so true. A lot of Rachel’s, when she goes “I have body dysmorphia” when Bee explains her mother has borderline. I like when Amandla goes, “That’s so ableist,” because she came up with that herself. I love when Rachel goes “You’re silencing me” and when Amandla talks about coke use and how she’s treated directly because she’s Black, and then Rachel goes, “I’m an ally.” It’s so hypocritical but it’s so good. I still laugh.
Was it always the plan to kill off the two men first and have all the women survive longer?
We wanted to say something, in a playful way, that the men need to die first. Also I want juicy, funny, wonderful characters for women. The big scene with the shootout and the podcast, it’s like a Western to me. That’s how we shot it, big close-ups, fighting it out. We definitely wanted the men to die first and then the cause of death is male toxic behavior and competitiveness. It truly exists, but it’s also extremely, darkly humorous.
Anyone who watches a horror movie knows that if you have sex or do drugs, you die. But we don’t often see a lesbian couple at the forefront. Why was that important to include?
I wanted to make an inclusive film and also not make a big deal about queer characters. They’re just queer, but they can be good, evil, messy, arrogant, shy. It doesn’t matter; it doesn’t have a storyline about being queer. It’s just there. I wanted to open like paradise and then destroy it and really tell the audience we are going to make something about, “Are we civilized or are we animals?” Two people French kissing is so sensuous, beautiful, real and raw and I wanted to communicate from the very start that would be the code of the film. I love how queerness is a huge part of the film without it being on the nose.
After the ending, where do Sophie and Bee go from there?
If it were up to me and I had more material, I wanted to stay even longer. They watch the TikTok and they think of all the deaths with the audience. Right after Max walks in, I think Bee would call her mom. She has reception and she obviously has an unhealthy relationship with her mother, that’s why she can’t say “I love you” to Sophie, so I feel the first thing is she goes back to her old habits. But then I guess the police would come. I was fantasizing the other day for a Connor O’Malley follow-up to this film. You follow him going into therapy or something.
Are hurricane parties real? I’d never heard of them before this movie
When I got the original script, the whole story took place in the snow. I thought a hurricane would be more chaotic with my whole premise of the movie being, “Are we beasts or are we something else?” I thought a hurricane tapped into that. I started to research hurricanes and I saw hurricane parties taking place in the U.S., and I thought it would be funny.
This house needed to look like Trump would like it, the ultimate broken American dream and all of that getting overwhelmed by nature. The mother of Pete Davidson’s character is like the mother of Sofia Coppola, but she still votes Trump. That’s what I was looking for. A little bohemian but it’s also Republican. “Rich people have guns!” We didn’t want to be too much flare in it, but we’re suggesting decadence, money, class.
What about the scene where they’re slapping each other and taking shots? Is that an actual thing?
I come from theater; groups can be very seductive. I thought it’d be a little cult-like if they had a ritual where Bee is like, “What is happening here?” Because we’re witnessing it through her. When I used to play Mafia with my friends, I always felt to this day [that] I don’t really understand the rules. I wanted to create that feeling for the audience and for Bee. These are just rituals they do; it’s kind of sexy, kind of an S&M touch, but it’s also a drinking game. We used to do in in the theater, in the wings. It gives you adrenaline and it makes you look good with flustered cheeks.
Did you ever play Mafia, Werewolf or Among Us with the cast?
I played a lot. The reason I got involved in the project is literally because my friends and I always played Mafia. I was the Emma; I would be like “Please, no, let’s not get into a fight.” We’d always end up fighting, then two weeks later we’d get into it again. That’s why I wanted to do this whole project. My actors definitely played it. They played all those games in the hotel. I suggested it to them, but they were already into the party games. What I loved about the idea is they keep playing the game until the very end. It’s still a game. You have a very clear construct, and then people deconstruct that. It’s a ritual. It keeps going and going, and in that you find the freedom to put your dark message.
What does this movie say about Gen Z?
When I would have panic attacks in the wings before I’d go on stage, I didn’t know what it was. I thought I was dying and I’d have to go to the doctor. I’m a big admirer of this generation because they have the words and access to way more information, the wokeness of them all. The film also tries to make fun of the times we live in and our phone addiction. When Wi-Fi goes out, the demons come in. We have no clue what to do.
There’s a phenomenon called “death by GPS” where you die of thirst if you lose Google Maps and you can’t find your way back anymore. That’s me! I’m completely addicted. I don’t see myself so far away from the generation, even though I’m way older. But we’re totally dependent on technology. It’s a cautionary tale. I want to say to myself to put my fucking phone away and dare to look around and look someone in the eye and see what’s going on. But we don’t, and we’re not able anymore to deal with a crisis.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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