Horror Movies, Music & More

Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer's BodyI know I said you wouldn’t read about most mainstream horror releases here, but Jennifer’s Body isn’t most mainstream horror releases. I was curious to see how a teen horror movie directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) and written by Diablo Cody (Juno) would turn out.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kusama’s Girlfight but let’s face it, Aeon Flux, her last film (2005), was a total mess. She’s been in movie jail ever since. And while I’m a huge fan of Cody’s work, I wasn’t sure how her distinctive voice would translate to horror. Also, I’d read all the press on how the filmmakers had resisted studio pressure to dumb down the film to appeal to a broader audience. Although Cody has said she’s happy that the powers that be had trusted her vision, left it largely untouched and allowed an R rating, I had my doubts. Color me surprised—Jennifer’s Body turned out far better than I expected.

Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) is the girl every guy wants and every girl wants to be. You know the one: strikingly beautiful; a little mean, but not too mean; extremely sexual, with anyone she chooses. Conversely, her best friend, Anita “Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried), is pretty, but subtly so; smart, but not nerdy; sexual, but has a steady guy. Needy is forever in Jennifer’s shadow, but they’ve been BFFs since the sandbox and balance each other. One night, Jennifer bullies Needy into going to a bar to see a band. One thing leads to another, and Jennifer becomes possessed by a demon and starts eating teenage boys to keep her looks. You know, standard high school stuff.

Not your ordinary girlAll Kusama and Cody had to do was give us the standard formula, but they’ve taken that formula and added a few new ingredients. Jennifer’s Body is, at turns, a “woman’s drama,” a paean to ‘70s and ‘80s horror flicks, a meditation on female sexuality, a feminist screed and a black comedy. Kusama’s camera moves as restlessly as a cobra and she takes advantage of most every trick in the book to good effect, ratcheting up the tension and then releasing it like a horror veteran. Cody’s dialogue has all the requisite pop culture references and stylized slang, but it’s never overly precious as it has been in the past. Her story follows the usual route, but takes enough clever detours to keep the trip from being boring.

Without effort, I know much too much about Fox’s personal life, but I’ve only seen her in one movie. I believe this is her first leading role, and she plays Jennifer just right—snarky, sexy, scary and insecure. But even though the film is named Jennifer’s Body, it’s Amanda Seyfried that runs away with the flick. She’s been doing good work for a while now, and her Needy is the center of the film. There’s also fine supporting work from Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris and Johnny Simmons.

Not your ordinary girl's BFFPerhaps Kusama and Cody should team up and take on some other film styles. How about a prison flick or a war movie, ladies? Whatever these two do next, we should be happy they managed to give us Jennifer’s Body. It might not be exactly what the studio wanted, but it’s what we needed: an intelligent, well-made horror film that cunningly upends the usual genre tropes at every turn. Maybe it’ll start a trend—smart movies by smart people for smart people. Stranger things have happened.

~Theron Neel

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4 Comments

  • Katy
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I want to see this movie now.
    BOOSH you’re a good writer.
    you went in and told me not only a teasy snippit of the movie, but about Megan Fox and some of her other movies. Had a lot of your voice in it.
    write moar.

  • Jen
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    So I went to see Jennifer’s Body BEFORE reading your review just so I could be objective. Good thing is- I agreed with you. I did enjoy the flick, especially seeing Megan fox all zitty and fug. One teenie nit-pick: I hate it when filmmakers use “Wiccan” books as shorthand for “Satanic Rituals.” There is no satan in the craft people.

  • Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Smart movies and smart people, but an even smarter Review, Theron! Nicely done! Now I will actually check the flick out…

  • cjarr
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I disagree.
    Whilst I had great fun reading your review, I found the film unsatisfactory in comparison with Juno. Cody’s voice seems to have lost itself halfway through and the plot was lack-luster.
    Perhaps it was the director herself who lost focus but the film seemed as though it had too much going on for it and it couldn’t decide where it wanted to go. Jennifer’s Body is a clever play of words but the quirky intelligent style that was distinctively Cody has dropped into mainstream obscurity.
    The beginning of the movie felt like the climax and the ending was just all too predictable. The lines trotted out by the actresses were snarky and more often than not, based on a tried and tested formula. Mean Girls was much better.
    The only actual smart part of the movie was played by the asian chick who represented conformity in its purest form.

    That was, unfortunately, the most genius part of a sadly tripe plot.

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