Greetings again from the darkness. This one works much better as satire than horror-thriller, at least for yours truly. With whodunnit elements drawn from Agatha Christie’s classic “Ten Little Indians”, the play-it-straight approach to riffing on Gen Z draws laughs right along with the expected annoyances courtesy of a bunch of entitled trust fund twenty-somethings. Actor-turned-director Halina Reijn and co-writers Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian (first feature film for both writers) have based the story on the party game known as ‘Body Body’ or ‘Murder in the Dark’, or perhaps you know it by some other name.
The film opens with a close-up of a passionate kiss between Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, 2001) and Bee (Maria Bakalova, BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM, 2020). A picturesque road trip takes the couple to an isolated mansion where they are meeting some of Sophie’s old friends for a hurricane party. They arrive as the storm approaches and the others are taking a last minute dip in the pool. It turns out they are surprised to see Sophie since she has kept her distance from the group (and been unresponsive to the group texts) for quite a while. We do find out her reason, and the group allows them to stay … mostly since the mansion is owned by David’s (Pete Davidson, “Saturday Night Live”) parents, and he and Sophie have been best friends for years. Also attending are Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), David’s wimpy actor-girlfriend who is prone to instant tears; Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Sophie’s tough-on-the-outside former (and sometimes jealous) lover; Alice (Rachel Sennott, SHIVA BABY, 2020) a podcaster and easily the most entertaining of this crew; and Greg (Lee Pace, THE FALL, 2006), Alice’s much older boyfriend via Tinder match. Missing is Max (Conner O’Malley) who, we are told, left in a huff after an argument the night before.
As you might guess, booze and other mind-altering drugs play a role here, as does the house itself – with multiple staircases and hallways. Once the game begins, the question arises … is it being played for real? A dead body raises the stress level, as does the dreaded tap on the back required by the rules of the game. In addition to the cocaine and liquid spirits, pieces of the puzzle include: glowsticks, pot brownies, zucchini bread, swords, trust funds, insecurities, a dead car battery, a power outage, and the always-present cell phone flashlights. This is a group of narcissistic, social media-influenced, childlike adults who wear their emotions on their sleeves. Back-stabbing and belittling is common, as is (ironically) playing the victim. There is no way we would think this is actual dialogue between humans if we didn’t all know someone in this age group – or have accidentally stumbled on their exchanges via posts.
As much as I enjoy a satirical look aimed squarely at today’s twenty-somethings, these characters are so extremely unlikable that most of us would leave the party in 2 minutes, taking our chances with the hurricane. Every possible buzzword is included as these self-centered richies take aim at each other. Of course, being older, Greg doesn’t really fit in – but then no one really fits in here. Ms. Sennott’s character provides the most fun for viewers, as these long-time acquaintances seem to have no clue what it means to be a friend. They don’t trust those they know, those they don’t know, or even themselves. This could be a contemporary version of SCREAM … well if that wasn’t the Timex of movie franchises. With no cell coverage for most of the movie, these folks are forced to have actual conversations and interact, exposing the lack of social graces which are enhanced given the situation. The ending is not likely to surprise you, but it’s quite fitting. This is certainly not amongst the best A24 offerings, but if you can put up with the lingo and irritating characters, there is some comedy to appreciate.
Opening in theaters on August 12, 2022