Bodies Bodies Bodies has been one of the biggest movies of 2022. And being the most popular slasher film on Letterboxd in the month of October, I thought it would be a good time to visit the film and try to understand its symbolism, what exactly the movie is saying about society. While Bodies Bodies Bodies may seem a bit obvious in its intentions, I actually believe there’s a lot to unpack. As I started piecing out important symbolic moments in the film, I realized there was more than meets the eye.
So let’s run through everything. We’ll start with the key themes and motifs of the movie, and then we’ll use those clues to explain the ending.
The Quick Explanation
Essentially, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a commentary on the disconnectedness of Generation Z. The film’s characters are so reliant on social media and technology for communication that they crumble the second the power goes out while playing Bodies Bodies Bodies. Because they’re unequipped to handle real-life human-to-human communication—which requires attentive listening, constructive feedback, compassion, and empathy—they crumble from within. For years they’ve grown as people, but grown apart as friends. Within their social distance rests a sea of anxiety and stress that leads to misunderstanding after misunderstanding of one another. They’re not listening to each other, and because of it they lose each other throughout the night. One by one, their murderous exits are symbolic of the relationships lost at the hands of a cruel cyberspace.
The Themes of Bodies Bodies Bodies
1. The disconnectedness of Gen Z
There’s clearly a strong Generation Z commentary happening in the film. The biggest indicator of this is the fact that almost every single character is in their early 20s…yet the film was written and directed exclusively by older Millennials and Generation X’ers. The original story’s author, Kristen Roupenian, was born in 1982; the director, Halina Reijn, was born in 1975; and the screenwriter Sarah DeLappe was born in 1990.
So what exactly is the commentary? The filmmakers seem to be saying that younger generations are becoming more and more individualized. While younger people may be more woke and socially conscious, they also seem to be less and less aware of the people directly around them. David (played by Pete Davidson) wouldn’t have made his TikTok video in the first place if it weren’t for his inability to discuss and address his insecurities with his friends. He instead bottled it up and grew increasingly frustrated after feeling emasculated by Greg (Lee Pace).
Throughout the movie, we see the friends disconnect from each other, one by one. They slowly but surely expel dark, closed-off thoughts about one another in their quest to discover the real “killer.” While they each have unique, fully realized personalities, they have no idea how to act as a unit. And that costs them in the end.
2. The increasing reliance on social media and technology
Because David is unable to deal with his embarrassment in the group setting, he retreats to social media to fix his ego and deal with his resentment. Greg (the character who is clearly older than everyone else, by the way) flusters David with his calm and collectedness. Greg isn’t impressed by David’s money and nonchalantly uses an expensive sword to open a bottle of champagne. Because David is unable to embarrass Greg in front of the others, he decides to pump up his own ego with the TikTok video—which goes horribly wrong, and leads to the misunderstanding that drives the rest of the movie. Technology was his escape; technology was his death.
Do you remember when the power goes out? It’s right when David dies. From there, the group begins to grow scared and feels separated from the world. They were already disconnected from one another, but now they are quite literally disconnected from the outside world. And they don’t know how to react—besides to panic. Ridden with this anxiety, the characters then go on to make shortsighted decision after shortsighted decision. And it’s all because they don’t know how to interact with each other outside the group chat, outside the internet.
3. What happens when friends grow apart
You can see how the first two themes lead right into this third one. While social media may be the direct culprit for driving these particular friends apart, this concept is nothing new—friends constantly lose each other and never fully catch back up. Time creates space, and within that space we often drift further and further away from the people we once knew. In many ways our friends stay the same, so it feels like time never passes when we get back together. But they’ve actually changed in so many ways we could have never predicted. So any assumptions we may make about them could be completely misguided and untrue.
We see this exact dynamic happening throughout Bodies Bodies Bodies. These friends constantly make presumptions about one another, which constantly leads to misunderstanding after misunderstanding, death after death. In that way, you can think of the film as a defamiliarization of what happens to friends as they grow apart. The person we thought we knew has changed into someone we no longer recognize—and possibly no longer trust. In a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies with those changing friends, who do you believe?
The Motifs of Bodies Bodies Bodies
1. Cell phones
Cell phones become a driving force of each of the above themes. They both reveal and exacerbate the problems driving these friends apart.
The cell phone motif is established right away. The movie opens on Bee (Maria Bakalova) and Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) sharing an intimate moment. They are with each other, in tune with one another, with no technology separating them. But before long, Bee is on her phone, responding to her mentally ill mother, clearly tied down and burdened by the duties of real life. Even in moments where she’s physically with Sophie, she remains disconnected via her phone.
This motif continues to plague each and every character: we see David using his phone to seek validation; the group believes Sophie has grown distant because she doesn’t respond to the group chat; Bee and Sophie fight over Sophie’s cell phone; they discover who really killed David by opening his cell phone; they all take out their phones once the power goes out; they use their phones to navigate the literal darkness, the symbolic darkness of their situation. Etc.
2. The internet
Because the power goes out in David’s home, the internet goes away. And since the group no longer has access to the outside world, they are forced to deal with one another live in person. And as people who are constantly on their phones connected to cyberspace, are clearly unequipped to handle the live nuances and idiosyncrasies of human beings. Instead of communicating and understanding, they internalize and attack.
When the internet is out, these kids essentially turn into a group of animals. They feel cut off from the rest of the world and unsafe, so they each go into defense mode: anybody and everybody could be the killer. And it isn’t until the power turns on and the internet returns that they feel safe, that they’re on the other side of this torturous get-together.
When you play Bodies Bodies Bodies, you simply tap someone on the back to kill them. But in real life? When you think a real killer is on the loose? You search for the real weapons around you. When you feel cornered, you turn into an animal and turn anything and everything into a weapon. You look for guns, you grab knives, you even wack someone over the head with a kettlebell.
Given everything we’ve discussed so far, the idea of physically attacking and defending yourself starts to take a different shape. In the end, we find out that nobody killed David but David—with his own sword. His death came from a weapon that he felt would elevate his manhood and eclipse Greg’s. The weapon became a tool for his ego.
You can think of every weapon in Bodies Bodies Bodies this way. They aren’t just physical weapons—they are symbolic representations of cyberspace attacks and defenses. We are constantly questioned and forced to guard ourselves on the internet, on social media. And, as Greg says: a good offense is the best defense. When you feel cornered, you attack.
And in the wake of this contentious environment lies a cyber-sea of bodies that have been slain by people who have chosen to judge and accuse us—even if they don’t really know us.
A component of Bodies Bodies Bodies is tricking others to believe you’re not the killer. Which is part of the fun. But…it stops being fun when a real murder has occurred. When you’re not the killer, you think everybody could be lying. And failing to identify the real killer could result in your own death.
We can take the lying that occurs in every game of Bodies Bodies Bodies and apply it to life. When we primarily interact with people on the internet, we only know what people show us. But once we’re physically confronted with those people, we start to learn more and more about them—things they had previously chosen not to reveal. So how do you ever really trust someone you know online? How can you accept their truth? As this group of friends has grown apart, this reality has forced itself upon them in bloody form.
In turn, that dynamic is then thrust upon us as viewers: who do we believe? Who do we side with? What would we do in this exact situation?
5. The hurricane
The final piece of the motif puzzle is the most overbearing one. From the beginning, we know that a hurricane is coming, which is why this group of friends has decided to hole up in David’s mansion. And the hurricane is what forces these kids to get together and deal with all the problems and anxieties that plague them.
You can think of this hurricane as the overwhelming force of the world that exists outside a cyberspace that has become the everyday environment for most people. I would guess that people spend more time interacting with others (outside their family and core group of friends) on the internet than they do in real life. But once we are forced to interact and converse and communicate and understand in real time? That can be scary—as intimidating as a giant storm. But it is a reality, and we’re all forced to come out of our safe spaces at some point.
The Ending of Bodies Bodies Bodies Explained
Now with all those ideas and pieces of symbolism in mind, let’s look at the plot of the movie and try to understand the ending.
The key to understanding Bodies Bodies Bodies is the very end of the movie. When Bee and Sophie are fighting over Sophie’s phone, they come across David’s phone and unlock it. They then find a TikTok video of David dancing and trying to uncork a champagne bottle with a sword, which accidentally leads to his own death. The twist here is that nobody killed David. But because all his friends were playing Bodies Bodies Bodies, they were primed to believe somebody had.
That’s the plot twist. But what does it mean? What is the commentary? And, ultimately…
Who is the real killer?
Essentially, the real “killer” at this party was the cybersphere. Nobody killed David but David. When he went off to record a dance video, he did it on his own, he did it away from his friends, and he did it as a result of the way his friend’s were treating him. He did it in a moment of frustration because he felt emasculated by Greg and couldn’t properly talk through his feelings with his friends—so he retreated. To the Internet. To social media. To something that isn’t human. He created a video he believed would prove his masculinity, would prove something about himself he wasn’t satisfied with.
Because he didn’t have a dynamic relationship with his core group of friends to whom he could express this angst, he used a medium that would reach more people. His search for validation is what killed him…and subsequently led to the death of all his friends. Their lack of honest communication leads to a real-life game of Bodies Bodies Bodies where they’re taken out one by one. But none of it would have ever happened if David didn’t feel the need to escape to the internet in a moment of desperation.
Thus, the entire story serves as a metaphor for Gen Z. Because this group of friends are so attached to their phones (remember: the internet goes out right after David dies), these friends slowly drift away from each other. They hang out with each other, but they’re clearly not in tune with each other. They have these frustrations and ideas built up about one another that they bury deep down. And as they’re trying to look for the real killer, those frustrations come pouring out in a murderous explosion of rage.
But none of this would have happened if David had had a safe space to express himself—if anybody had a safe space to express themselves. If Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) had been honest about not liking Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) podcast, then they wouldn’t have turned on each other and that gun would have probably never been fired. If Sophie had been able to safely express that she saw Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) fall down the stairs, then nobody would have suspected her. And if Greg hadn’t been placed in a box because everybody believed him to be a war veteran, then they wouldn’t have cornered and killed him.
Sophie and Bee’s fight at the end becomes an encapsulation of the group’s infighting. While the lack of communication has killed everybody in this friend group, Sophie and Bee still have a fighting chance. They’re alive, and they can make it out alive if they talk through their predicament. But instead, Bee doesn’t believe Sophie didn’t cheat on her with Jordan and demands to see Sophie’s texts. And instead of giving in, Sophie throws the phone away.
In the end, you believe this disagreement will lead to a death as it did with all the other friends. But because Sophie and Bee discover David’s TikTok video, they’re able to step back and realize that the entire ordeal was a misunderstanding—nobody was a killer, so nobody ever needed to be investigated in the first place. In their quest to discover the true “murderer,” they each ended up revealing their darker sides one by one. They questioned and cornered one another to prove themselves innocent—when really the entire time they were each guilty of being closed-off friends. In their attempts to reveal one another, they only reveal themselves. They become nasty and vile and merciless in order to uncover a villain that doesn’t even exist.
So what’s the message of the movie?
You can think of the title Bodies Bodies Bodies as a symbolic representation of cyberspace. The bodies that litter David’s mansion are the bodies that litter social media. Everybody is so busy trying to prove who they are in the technological space that they forget how to connect in the real world. Instead of dealing with their problems or talking through their disagreements, they bicker and showboat and accuse. It doesn’t matter who dies if you can prove your worth, your status and live on.
But in the end, as we see: nobody wins. Nobody but Max, who walked away from it all and strolled back in at the end to ask, “What happened?” At this exact moment, the power turns back on and the internet becomes available again. And after a long night where they were exposed after being forced to communicate with their friends, Sophie and Bee are confronted with cyberspace once again.
How will they react? Have they changed? Will they be honest and more available to each other? If not, it may be the end of them.