Movie review: ‘Bodies’ a messy, showy dim escape

In recent years, there has been a pattern among well-known syndicated critics – those who have established themselves nationwide or globally via the internet. One melting pot of reviewers is on Rotten Tomatoes, where contributors often appear in lockstep with one another.

The latest example – for which 90% of critics are reiterating the same positive points – is the dark comedy “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” Many blurbs and catch phrases proclaim the movie as “bold and ambitious” or “cool and refreshing,” the latter of which more accurately describes iced tea.

Alas, my take on the picture is less favorable: Filmmaker and Netherlands native Halina Reijn comes across as hell-bent on making a blood-stained splash. More specifically, “Bodies” feels as gaudy and pretentious as a summertime slasher flick can be.

Its opening frame signals what lies ahead, more or less, for the subsequent 95 minutes. There’s a close-up of two young ladies (Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova) embraced in a French kiss, before they drive to a wealthy friend’s pool party at a New York mansion. The rude host is portrayed by Pete Davidson, who appears to be channeling Johnny Knoxville if the “Jackass” star were more smarmy.

Tension rises instantly, as most of those on hand – Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Lee Pace and Myha’la Herrold – give the cold shoulder to the aforementioned lovebirds who arrived late.

After rain sends the group scurrying indoors, the clipped and awkward banter gives way to a drinking game from which the movie’s title is derived. This sinister affair involves make-believe murder, which inexpicably shifts into an onslaught of actual deaths.

The shady shenanigans are granted a boost when a storm knocks out their electricity. Suddenly, the back-stabbers are engaged in murderous antics in the dark – too convenient a coincidence if there ever was one.

What ensues amounts to little more than an Agatha Christie whodunit, minus the exotic locale, for a younger generation.

As the body count escalates, wild accusations fill the air like hot-air balloons. The most-fingered suspect is also the oldest; he’s a red herring blamed chiefly because of his survival kit. Oh, the irony.

Most of the repetitive dialogue and banter leaves a lot to be desired. Early on, while en route to the get-together, one girl assures her new lover, “They’re gonna be obsessed with you.”

Even sillier is this dumbed-down reminder, after a character is rendered lifeless: “Our friend is dead!” (Clearly, the script has a knack for the obvious.)

Not unlike the 2014 would-be thriller “As Above, So Below,” the makers of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” rely on blinding flashlights – mainly from smartphones – piercing through the dark and straight at our eyes; the result is a chronic source of irritation.

I almost felt sorry for actresses Stenberg and Bulgaria native Bakalova – both appealing as they are talented – as they tiptoed around in blood-stained clothes, trying to solve the mysteries.

As for the so-called climactic “reveal” trending on social media? Don’t believe the hype. The ending amounts to a head-shaking groaner – yet another absurdity in a movie dripping with them.