Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Jennifer’s Body – Review

Jennifer’s Body – Review

Oct 5, 2010

reviewed by Danny
directed by Karyn Kusama, 2009

As far as basic film making goes, everything about Jennifer’s Body is done fairly well.  The writing, though a bit precious, is better than the usual low-budget horror script.  The film is well-acted, for the most part, with Amanda Seyfried and Johnny Simmons putting in particularly good performances.  Everything looks great, from the washed-out, cool color palette to the gore.  There are a handful of fun, gruesome scenes that I really enjoyed.  Still, it seems to promise a lot more than it actually delivers.

Jennifer’s Body opens with a scene of the unfortunately named Anita “Needy” Lesnicki in a psych ward.   We see her flip out, attack a nutritionist, and get placed in solitary confinement.  The film then flashes back to the events that brought her to this point.  Needy is a bookish virgin who happens to be best friends– sealed, we will later learn, in blood–with Jennifer Check, a promiscuous beauty who cruises the halls of he high school like a shark cruises the shallows.  The fact that the film was directed by a woman, Karyn Kusama, and written by another, Juno‘s Diablo Cody, had me hoping that the film would dig beneath the stereotypes and provide some kind of insight into these two characters.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Other than a good deal of chewing into the guts of victims, the film never gets more than skin deep.

Fairly early in the movie, Jennifer is kidnapped by a band clearly intent on doing her harm.  I like how particularly clueless the band is (“There’s always that type of girl—they love to show it off, but they are not going to give it up”) It’s also interesting just how resigned to something bad happening Jennifer seems to be when she gets in to the band’s van after a fire in the bar has provided the needed distraction.  She looks more beaten down by life than any high school student has a right to.  When she turns up at Needy’s house in the following scene, bloodied and vomiting an evil-looking black substance onto the kitchen floor, it is clear that something bad has happened, though we don’t yet know what.

It soon becomes apparent that Jennifer isn’t herself anymore.  We see her using her feminine charms to seduce a football player who is mourning the loss of his best friend and lure him to the woods where she proceeds to eat him.

We later learn that Jennifer has been the “virgin” in a virgin sacrifice to bring the band success (guess no one just sells their soul to the Devil anymore)  In the movie’s folklore, the fact that she wasn’t actually a virgin means Jennifer’s body becomes the host to the demon for whom the sacrifice was intended.  This turns Jennifer into a kind of succubus who has to eat flesh in order to stay beautiful.

Is the film suggesting that she is just the perfected form of what she was before—a beast that chews men up and spits them out, so to speak.  I don’t know.  The film’s message seems pretty muddled. If Jennifer, pre-possession, is supposed to be the villain, why does she come off as so needy and sad during the scene at the bar.  If she is just supposed to be another victim, why not show her trying to fight the possession just a bit.  If the creature is just inhabiting Jennifer’s dead body, then nothing that happens after the sacrifice has much to say about her character at all.

Which leaves Needy.  Though a bit clueless at first, eventually Needy figures out what is going on and what needs to be done.  The final revelation about Needy does nothing to add depth to the story.  Instead, it just seems like the writer thought horror films always needed to end with a twist.  Ultimately, the film just seems kind of empty.  Well-crafted, but empty.

Click here to purchase Jennifer’s Body

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