Three and a Half Torches (Out of Five)
Jennifer’s Body is the second film from Juno scribe Diablo Cody, who once again puts her ear for snappy dialogue to use and turns it into the unbilled third star of her film.
As for the plot? Not as great, but more on that later.
For starters, what can I say that hasn’t already been said about Megan Fox, who plays the titular Jennifer? We all know she’s smoking hot. Her PR people have been unrelenting in their determination to brand her as a man-eating sex goddess, and her character in Body is really just an extension of that brand, with the focus being more on the man-eating, less on the sex goddess.
Still, you have to applaud Fox for taking a role which requires her to be covered in blood and gore and be, frankly, unhot for much of the time, when I’m sure she’s been offered dozens of roles that allow for unblemished skin all the way through the script.
Amanda Seyfried, who seems to be mostly overlooked in favor of Fox (which is true for their characters as well), really shines as Needy, the reluctant hero of this film. Anyone who saw Mama Mia knows how radiantly beautiful she is, and yet she spends the entire film in mousy glasses and unkempt hair, and no one makes a peep. Maybe gentlemen really don’t prefer blondes.
The plot, as I mentioned before, is uninventive — anyone who’s seen the previews knows Jennifer gets possessed by a demon and starts killing her male classmates — but I almost wonder if it was run-of-the-mill on purpose. After all, what makes this film fun, more than anything, is seeing Megan Fox go all Baraka-from-Mortal-Kombat on poor, unfortunate teenage boys.
The other enjoyable factor is, of course, Cody’s dialogue. I found myself cracking a big smile when Jennifer is tired of Needy’s mourning over the death of dozens of their friends from a fire and tells her to “MoveOn.org.”
Another memorable moment is when, while having sex with her boyfriend, Needy somehow psychically witnesses Jennifer murdering a boy, and she begins to scream and sob. Worried, her boyfriend asks if he hurt her, and then, with hope in his eyes, asks “Am I too big?”
It is in these moments when you have to surrender to Cody’s clever vision — a horror movie that’s fun. Twisted and dark, yes, but it never goes too long without a laugh. While it’s my belief that Cody will never find a better actor to deliver her dialogue than Ellen Page, Seyfried and Fox do an admirable job.
There is one thing that bothered me, though. Written by a woman, directed by a woman, with the two lead roles being women, it struck me as surprisingly exploitative in one particular scene in which the two girls, both of whom are sexually active with boys, have a nice little makeout session, and this is after Needy knows Jennifer is an evil demon.
It makes no sense, and is extremely unnecessary. Hints of their sexual attraction to each other pop up every now and then, but never as a sympathetic, realistic plot point — merely, it seems, as a way to titillate male viewers. In my head I pictured Diablo Cody writing this and thinking, “Okay, if I want boys to come see a girl-made horror film, I should give ‘em what they want: two hot chicks making out.”
Believe me, I am in no way against hot chicks making out (or anyone making out for that matter), but it seems like that’s the one time the film forgot it was self-aware. It actually could have been milked for comedy and been really funny by playing on the exploitative nature of cheesy horror films, but no … just close-ups of lips and tongues for no reason. Then Needy remembers Jennifer’s a demon and jumps away, and the plot picks up right where it left off, as if the kissing never happened. Bizarre.
A note to Diablo Cody: Your work is really good, and you should trust in it. You don’t need to go this route just to sell tickets.
All in all, if you’re into horror films, this is certainly one of the most original I’ve seen in a while. I recommend it, and make sure you stay for the credits to catch a satisfying epilogue.
Final thought: While the film takes place in a town called Devil’s Kettle, we’re never told what state it’s in, though from the sizable occult section in their school library, I’m guessing it’s probably located somewhere near Sunnydale, California.