Bodies Bodies Bodies Is a Slasher Movie for the Extremely Online

Director Halina Reijn says she “tried to really swim in the ocean of that whole generation.”
Maria Bakalova Amandla Stenberg looking over a balcony banister in Bodies Bodies Bodies
Courtesy of Gwen Capistran/A24

It’s pretty clear from the trailer that Bodies, Bodies, Bodies isn’t a run-of-the-mill slash-happy horror flick. Instead, it’s a TikTok-fueled whirlwind of Pete Davidson riffs, podcast jokes, and arguments over who’s triggered and who’s being gaslit. In other words, it’s a thoroughly modern murder flick—one with a twist viewers probably won’t see coming until the very end.

While much of Bodies’ special sauce comes from its very hip, very now cast—including Amandla Stenberg, Rachel Sennott, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders, Lee Pace, and the aforementioned Davidson—much of its zeitgeist-capturing mania comes from the mind of its director, Halina Reijn. WIRED talked to the Dutch actress and director about TikTok dances, Lord of the Flies, and whether Davidson’s online profile contributed to his casting.

WIRED: Bodies Bodies Bodies could be categorized as an extremely online slasher. Almost all of the movie’s characters have existed solely in the world of readily available social media and cell phones. Was that the tone of the movie when you agreed to do it, and how did you lean into it?

Halina Reijn: [Screenwriter] Sarah DeLappe and I created the tone. It wasn’t really there when we first got the story [from “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian].

We are so addicted to our phones. We're always looking at screens all day long. I'm the worst, so I see this mainly as a cautionary tale for myself.

The tone that we wanted was pretty delicate, because we wanted to do comedy, but also make it realistic and raw and energetic. It's really thanks to the actors that we were able to pull that off, because they were the ones who had to execute that tone.

I think that was the most challenging part of the whole movie, and I feel that we succeeded.

You do have to walk a thin line. You want the movie to be funny and current, but you also want it to be watchable and topical for years to come—not some relic, like where viewers in five years are laughing when someone orders a pizza online in The Net.

Totally. In the end, it's a film about group behavior like Lord of the Flies or Mean Girls. It’s about what happens when they are in a pressure cooker, and how the group reacts. I think the message is a universal one, and in that sense, timeless. Of course, the theme of having no reception and the theme of phone addiction are there, but that could also be replaced by other things. It's just vanity and narcissism. Wanting to belong to a group is so seductive, but then you see that all these individuals are so lonely and lost.


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That’s very true. The backbiting that exists in this group isn’t a new theme. But in the past it might have been, “Oh, so-and-so told me in a letter that …” But in Bodies, it’s “She hate-listens to your podcast.”

That's why we still watch Clueless and *Kids—*which is a completely different film that was very inspiring to me. Any film about youth culture, you can watch throughout time because, in the end, we're all struggling with the same issues.

In Bodies, they just left college. They need to make their way into the world, and they all struggle. I think that is universal. But we also tried to put it in the context of right now—how do they communicate and what music do they listen to?

The relationship between humans and tech is not going to end very soon. It's going to continue to grow worse and worse, so I feel it's important to make art about that subject.

I was just talking to Patton Oswalt about his new movie, I Love My Dad, and he said something similar—to the effect of, “Hating social media now is like hating the telephone when that came out. It’s not going away. You have to learn to use it.”

I agree. I'm happy because my mom is 80 years old and she knows how to use an iPhone.

There are beautiful things in technology, like the way that we can communicate right now without having to drive or fly. There's an intimacy in it too.

It makes no sense only to judge it, because your phone is almost a body part now, and I think it will become one or be built in very soon. We should be aware also of what it is and what it does to us.

It’s very funny to me that Lee Pace is “the old guy” in this movie, because we should all be so lucky to be that cool and attractive when we’re “old.”

I know! It was also very important to me that Lee Pace represents me—like, “Wait, what are the rules? How do you play?” That was me with the actors during lunch. I'm almost two steps behind.

You’re in your mid-forties, like Lee Pace, and most of the characters in the movie are meant to be these hyper-aware 22-year-olds. How did you find that voice or get in touch with that generation?

I grew up in radical communes and hippie households, so coming from that, I'm always intrigued by any subgroup. I feel that young people literally don't remember a time without smartphones, and that just fascinates me.

I read a lot of articles about it, and I talked a lot. Having Sarah DeLappe, who is a very young writer, working on the script was very important, because she is of the same generation, though she’s a little bit older than they are. It all had to be very genuine to me.

When we cast the actors, we really worked with them, asking them every question, taking notes when they were privately speaking, asking them when we could use things they were saying to each other during the dinners, and also asking them to improvise.

I was never on TikTok, and unfortunately now I'm totally addicted. I was going on all these dating apps. I tried to really swim in the ocean of that whole generation.

Speaking of TikTok, there is a TikTok dance in the movie. How did that end up in the story?

I come from the theater. I'm a collaborator, so when we cast them, I said to them, “Listen, I'm going to make you responsible. You are part of the creation. You're not just an executioner. You're also really a part of what this is.”

I think Amandla [Stenberg] came up with that dance, and they all learned it. They made it their own and changed it a little bit.

It's such a big part of that world. Even now, when we’re doing press, the cast is doing TikTok dances in the hallway.

There are three men in this movie. You’ve got the aforementioned Lee Pace, who’s one of the internet’s biggest crushes right now. You’ve got Conner O'Malley, who has made incredibly funny online videos for years. And then you’ve got Pete Davidson, who is, to some people, the voice of a generation. How much did you think about virality when you were casting those roles? Did you think, “If we get Pete, that will make more people talk about this movie.”

For me, it was very clear from the start that I wanted Pete’s character, David, to represent a kind of masculine toxicity, or being in a toxic relationship and the seduction of that.

I immediately thought of Pete because I always felt he was a little bit underused as an actor. He’s always goofy and great in these films where he has to be a funny stoner, but I thought, “I want to use his dark side.”

With Lee Pace, I just think that he is a great theater actor with proper experience, and he’s also beautiful and irresistible. He could also help us, because we have this very young group of actors, and he could also be a father or a guide or inspiration to all of us.

With Conner O’Malley, I mean, I think he's the funniest guy. We needed someone who could, with very little screen time, do something important. He's so dry too. I want to see him in a big role. He has so much talent.

While watching the movie, I couldn't help wondering how the story would play out online. Like, when news of these murders got out in that universe, would Gawker track down all the characters’ social accounts? Would Alice’s podcast suddenly go viral? I’d love to know.

I was talking to Rachel [Sennott, who plays Alice] the other day, and I was like, “Should we just make the podcast at this point?” That’s the kind of stuff I fantasize about.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.