Tag Archives: Maria Bakalova

Let Them Hit the Floor

Bodies Bodies Bodies

by Hope Madden & George Wolf

In a way, we’ve seen Bodies Bodies Bodies before. A group of good-looking, rich young people gathers in a remote home to imbibe and play stupid games that turn deadly. Think April Fool’s Day, Truth or Dare, Ouija.

A24’s latest horror film isn’t a straight reimagining or a satire of the sub-subgenre. It’s barely a part of the subgenre. Instead, B3 delivers an insider’s skewering of the sociology of a generation.

The result never condescends or patronizes. Not that it’s kind.

Director Halina Reijn’s clever (if slight) film roots its comedy and horror in Gen Z culture. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, who also produces) brings her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova, Oscar nominee from Borat 2) to a rich buddy’s mansion for a hurricane party.

That buddy (Pete Davidson) and the rest of Sophie’s inner circle didn’t really expect her to show up, let alone bring a plus-one. And Bee’s more than a little out of her element with this group of spoiled rich kids.

When the weather finally hits, they decide to play a game with the lights off where one “killer” taps a player on the back, they play dead, and the one who finds them shouts “bodies bodies bodies.” Then you try to figure out the killer.

This is also the plot of the rest of the movie. Reijn and writers Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian are essentially predicting what happens when this generation finds themselves trapped without internet: Lord of the Flies.

A wicked script buoyed by smart visuals—particularly the use of lighting—emphasizes the social anxiety strangling these characters. Agatha Christie turns Agatha Bitchy as paranoia, self-absorption and toxic douchebaggery spoil the party games.

Reijn works the dark corners and vast emptiness of the estate setting for an effective undercurrent of tension as the beats and bodies keep dropping. And though the bloodletting is often offscreen, every new discovery becomes a chance to sharpen suspicions, reopen old wounds and hurl new accusations, with each partygoer struggling to navigate both offense and defense.

The compact cast sparkles with young talent, led by Stenberg and Bakalova. We essentially come to party with them, and it is the breakdown in their characters’ trust that keeps us off balance and fuels our anxieties. Davidson has fun riffing on his own bad boy image, and Shiva Baby‘s Rachel Sennot delivers the biggest smiles as the dim-witted Alice (“guys, doing a podcast is haaaaard!”).

The social commentary here is a bit tardy to be profound, and the 95-minute running time gets filled out via some repetition, but Bodies Bodies Bodies finds an entertaining sweet spot between gore and guffaws.

There’s just enough humor and horror to make the whodunnit less vital, so even solving the mystery early won’t spoil the party. The fun comes from just riding out the storm, and the film’s deliciously deadpan final line reveals that was the plan all along.

High Five!

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

by George Wolf, because Hope Madden can’t watch Borat’s pranks without leaving the room

You may have already seen a headline or two about Rudy Giuliani’s run-in with Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat.

When it happened this past July, Giuliani called the cops, and then boasted that Cohen didn’t “get him.” But now that Subsequent Moviefilm is here, we see Giuliani still lives in a world unhindered by reality, and Cohen still has a knack for finding cringeworthy humor in the most unseemly situations.

Much as changed in Borat’s world – and ours – since his 2006 adventure brought shame to his native Kazakhstan, and earned him a life sentence of hard labor. But now, with the American president’s fondness for dictatorships, Borat has a chance for redemption.

He must return to America, and get Kazakhstan on the short list for Trump’s “strongman club” by bribing Vice President Pence with a valuable offering.

The gift? Borat’s 15 year-old daughter Tutar- also known as “Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdiyev” (Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, nearly Cohen’s equal for stone faced boundary-pushing.)

Borat’s special delivery during Pence’s CPAC speech (beautifully synched to a COVID-19 reassurance of being “ready for anything!”) is rebuffed, so Giuliani becomes the next logical target.

And that road to Rudy is filled with Cohen’s fearless hijinx, again skewering the breeding grounds for bigotry, ignorance, misogyny, anti-semitism, QAnon, Karens and..what else ya got?

Pervy ex-mayors of NYC!

But Borat is pranking a meaner America this time. There are no layers to peel away anymore, the ugliness is out and proud. From a bakery to a pregnancy center to a Tea Party rally, the often hilarious audacity is tempered by the sadness of realizing we no longer need Borat to expose this underbelly.

So Cohen and director Jason Wolinar (a TV vet helming his first feature) make a smart and subtle pivot. Segments with Tutar’s “babysitter,” and another featuring two elderly Jewish ladies in a synagogue (one of which the film is dedicated to) mix the bracing humor with moments of touching sweetness. Cohen’s not going soft, just pausing to remind us there is hope.

Early on, Borat has to run from random Americans excited to see him on the street. It’s a refreshing acknowledgment that we’ve seen this schtick before. Yes, it’s still shockingly brazen and often laugh out loud funny, but the thrill of discovery is naturally gone.

But whether he’s Cohen posing as Borat or Borat posing as Cliff Safari (or John Chevrolet, take your pick), the comedy and the tragedy are nearly impossible to ignore, even if you want to.

Right, Rudy?