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Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 251: Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body
Wait, isn't she in high school? Have a seat over there...

Rarely do I feel like I am not the target audience when watching a horror movie. I fit into the coveted 18-34 male demographic so a lot of television shows and movies are aimed towards me in an effort to get my spending money. They joke is usually on them because I have no spending money, plus I'm not easily swayed by whatever is “in” at the moment. With 250 reviews this year, only once did I ever feel like a movie was not really created with my “bracket” in mind and that was the urban zombie/vampire movie “Dead Heist”. Even then, it was still a bloody testosterone fest. Will a movie about teenage girls written by (gulp) Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) make me feel left out as well?

Jennifer's Body is a 2009 horror/black comedy movie starring Megan Fox (Transformers, Jonah Hex) as Jennifer Check and Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Red Riding Hood) as her best friend Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. The movie is told mostly in flashback, starting with Needy in a women's mental institution explaining how she got there. One night, Jennifer takes Needy to a dive bar in their tiny Minnesota town, Devil's Kettle, to see an indie rock band called Low Shoulder. Jennifer flirts with the lead singer and Needy overhears him talking about her, guaranteeing she is a virgin. Needy confronts him, confirming she is a virgin (despite not being once since junior high school) in hopes of scaring him off. A fire breaks out during their set, killing several people, but Jennifer and Needy escape through a window. The singer from Low Shoulder convinces Jennifer to go with the band despite Needy's pleas for her not to. That night, Jennifer shows up at Needy's house, covered in blood. She vomits a black viscous liquid and leaves quickly. The next day, to Needy's surprise, Jennifer is perfectly normal. With the town in mourning, Jennifer lures the school's football to the woods in an effort to seduce him. She attacks, viciously disemboweling him and cannibalizing his body. Since the incident, Low Shoulder has become incredibly popular thanks to a rumor saying they saved people at the show. One day, Jennifer comes to school looking sick and weak. She accepts a date from emo kid Colin (Kyle Gallner, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Haunting In Connecticut), killing and eating him later that night. After the murder, Needy nearly hits an almost feral Jennifer with her car. Jennifer explains that on the night of the accident, the band sacrificed her to the devil in order for the band to become famous. Because she was not a virgin, a demonic spirit took over her body, turning her into a succubus. In an effort to protect her boyfriend Chip, Needy breaks up with him and begs him not to go to the school dance. Needy goes to the dance to make sure Jennifer will not hurt anyone else. Little does she know that Jennifer meets Chip before the dance. How will Needy stop Jennifer and save the town?

Her gigantic eyes can see the future!

Jennifer's Body is one part Mean Girls and one part Carrie. A lot of the movie focuses on the toxic relationship between Jennifer and Needy. Jennifer is the pretty one, always taking from the doughty nerd, Needy. Female relationships have occasionally been addressed in horror, but never to the extent that Jennifer's Body does. I give the movie credit for trying to add a different type of substance to the horror genre. I never experienced anything like that in my own life, but the movie manages to convey the relationship well enough so that I didn't feel completely left out. The story itself is decent, though I don't understand why they told it in a flashback. The beginning and after portions weren't necessary and hurt the movie's momentum. The movie goes for that evasion comedic horror movie, but manages to miss both targets. The biggest problem for me is Diablo Cody's style of writing. I had to suffer through Juno and as much as I hated the “witty” dialogue from that movie, it at least made sense because it was a quirky indie movie. For every funny one-liner (and admittedly, there are a few) there are about 5 eye-rolling pieces of dialogue. It tries so hard to be hip that the movie becomes another high school flick with a few horror scenes. The movie tried to show some sort of weird psychological connection between the two girls, but it was never explained and just left me confused. The horror itself is decent with some good, but brief scenes of violence. There are also some good special effects, but again, they're brief. For a movie that's geared towards high school girls, it's weird that they made the movie rated R.

One thing that initially caused me some pause before watching the movie was the inclusion of Megan Fox. Now, I've never seen Transformers and have zero intention of ever doing so. Despite never seeing that effects-laden explosion fest, I have read countless criqitues of Ms. Fox's acting and didn't have high hopes of Jennifer's Body. The say “Never judge a book by it's cover” for a reason. Megan Fox is actually very good in this movie, convincingly pulling off both comedy and horror. Amanda Seyfried is good as well, though I wouldn't normally have casted her as the “nerdy” one. There are a few cameo scenes with J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man, OZ) and Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy, Elf) which were enjoyable. The movie does essentially ignore adults, making them goofy or just non-existant. I thought it was weird that the satanic band was an indie rock band. You'd think making them a heavy metal band would make more sense, if not a little cliched. Speaking of music, there are a few good bands played throughout the movie (The Sword, Screeching Weasel, It Dies Today), but there's also some weak indie rock that I could have done without.

 A little something for the boys that got dragged to see this

It's nice to see a horror movie focus on female characters and their relationship. Jennifer's Body isn't the first to do that, but it's probably the first to focus on it so much at the high school level. This focus does tend to drag on too much over the course of the movie. The Diablo Cody signature “snappy” dialogue is in full effect and becomes annoying. Saying a guy is “salty” instead of “hot” is neither funny, clever, or hip. It's just annoying. The horror is decent with some fun violence and gore, though I wonder why they geared the movie towards high school girls if they couldn't initially see it in theaters. That would probably help explain why it did poorly at the box office. The acting is surprisingly good, considering I was expecting the worst. Jennifer's Body has it's moments, but it's never as good as it thinks it is. The real travesty is that Jennifer's Body has a much longer and in-depth Wikipedia page than, say, the page for Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Come one, people.


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