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

Devil – Review

Devil – Review

Oct 3, 2010

reviewed by Skot
directed by John Erick Dowdle, 2010

“If the devil is real, God, also, must be real.”  So says the narrator of Devil, the latest addition to the body of work of M. Night Shyamalan.  Shyamalan is the auteur behind Sixth Sense, The Village, and Signs, among others.  In this case, he neither wrote nor directed the film.  Instead, he came up with the idea and then produced it.  According to reports, Devil is the first in a series of films under the heading of The Night Chronicles.

One of the film’s promotional posters shows the outside of an elevator door.  A red light seeps through the cracks in the door in the shape of an inverted cross.  The image comes with this tagline: “Five strangers trapped.  One of them is not what they seem.” The red upside-down cross along with the title of the movie implies that one of the strangers trapped in the elevator is Old Scratch himself.  That is, indeed, the premise of this film.

Five people, each with something to hide, are stuck together in an elevator.  The mood darkens as the authorities attempt their rescue.  One at a time, the passengers start getting mysteriously injured (and worse) during intermittent light outages.  Building security officers notify the police when it appears a homicide has occurred.  The officers can watch on security cameras but the communication only goes one direction.

It’s a horror film with a whodunit twist.  Others have remarked on the similarity to the 1939 Agatha Christie book, And Then There Were None in which a group of people with guilty pasts are stuck in an isolated location and begin to die one by one.

According to a survey of the Pew Research Center dated September 28, 2010, Americans score poorly on general knowledge about religion.  While people seem to have less and less understanding of religious teaching, some basic religiosity still underlies our culture.  What can we make of it when one of Hollywood’s top filmmakers uses a verse from the New Testament to open his much anticipated latest release?  Before the first credits appear on the screen, the audience is given this passage to ponder: Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Is this just a prop to effective storytelling?  Or it could also be that, in spite of other evidence, Americans remain a God haunted people.

With the verse from 1st Peter in mind, the story follows the notion that the Devil comes into our midst, clothed in the garb of humanity, in order to torment those who have done evil.  Significantly, the one character who is able to see things clearly is the man of faith.  Not the man of science.  Not the man of evidence.  Science and reason can take you a long way, but only so far.  The man of faith was mocked and laughed at for his outdated superstitions.  But when the evidence was missing or misleading, it was the man of faith who could still connect the dots.  Like The Last Exorcism, another recent horror film, Devil also makes the claim that the reality of the devil is proof of the existence of God.  Looking into the darkness becomes an occasion to consider the light.

At the film’s promotion at this year’s ComicCon in San Diego, audience members giggled when the screen said, “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.”  Not the intended reaction, I’m sure.  When Sixth Sense came out in 1999, fans and critics were excited by this new creative talent, a stylish horror director who created stories with twists to baffle Alfred Hitchcock.  As Shyamalan wrote and directed new tales, audiences had mixed reactions.  Some appreciated his trademark plot turns and his soft pedal approach to spirituality.  Others complained that he lost his horror edge and still others were just confused.  The question for many people has been whether Devil would mark Shyamalan’s return to chiller cinema or be just another misguided bait-n-switch attempt to appeal to large audiences while appearing to throw the horror fans a bone.

Personally, I have liked most of Shyamalan’s movies.  The exceptions being Lady in the Water and The Happening. Lady was just bad and wrong.  Happening had some cool moments but was dreadfully cast and fizzled miserably by the end.  I loved Unbreakable and have enjoyed all his other major pictures.  So I still get excited when I hear about his upcoming projects.  Devil was a good horror film.  It was contrived, but most things are.  And it was formulaic but I’m still open enough to be surprised by Shyamalan’s formulas.

October 2010 FREE DVD Giveaway

October 2010 FREE DVD Giveaway

Oct 2, 2010

Here are the details for the October 2010 DVD Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a free DVD of the original Halloween2 starring Jamie Lee Curtis.  In honor of the Halloween season we thought it only fitting to give away a Halloween movie.  So how do you win?

Simply add us on Twitter.  We have a great number of Facebook fans but need more Twitter friends.  So, every person who starts following The Blackest Eyes on Twitter during the month of October will automatically be eligible to win Halloween 2.  We will draw the lucky winner on Halloween night.

So, follow us on Twitter and good luck!

September 2010 DVD Giveaway Winner

September 2010 DVD Giveaway Winner

Oct 1, 2010

Congratulations to Elaine of Omaha, NE for being the September recipient of the DVD Giveaway.  Elaine will be receiving the special edition 2-disk set of The Shining.

Be looking for the October 2010 DVD Giveaway details very soon!

Friday the 13th Part 6 – Review

Friday the 13th Part 6 – Review

Oct 1, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Tom McLoughlin, 1986

I am determined to finish my Friday the 13th series before the end of the year, so I am keeping them coming at a faster rate.  To read my other series reviews, simply click on “Friday the 13th Series” on the categories at the right hand side of the screen.

Friday the 13th Part 6 – Jason Lives, is actually a pretty darn good horror flick.  There are two elements that clearly are emphasized in a greater capacity with part 6:  First, Jason is given his superhuman strength that is he is most known by today.  Second, comedy becomes an important part of the series.

The story continues to follow Tommy Jarvis, that beloved kid (played by Corey Feldman in part 4) who stabbed Jason about 3 million times.  Jason is currently in a mental institution and grown up, but he escapes (with a friend) to make sure Jason is really dead.  The only way to do that of course is to dig up his body.  Which they do.  Unfortunately, just as Tommy flips out and sticks a metal fence post into Jason’s heart, lighting strikes it and “energizes” Jason, giving him more strength than every.  Tommy’s friend meets a very ugly end and Tommy runs away.  Form there, the movie is about Tommy trying to convince the sheriff of “Forest Green”, which is the new name of Crystal Lake to try and avoid the association of the city name and Jason, that Jason is at large.  The sheriff thinks Tommy is the one doing the killing, so he locks him up.  Thankfully, the Sheriff’s daughter, Megan, knows Tommy is not the killer and lets him loose.  One by one folks start dying until Tommy lures Jason into the lake, throws a big chain net over him, and drowns him.  Of course, Jason is not really dead and just waiting for part 7.

This movie follows a similar path as Halloween, at least in the way that one character knows the carnage that is about to ensue while the others are in disbelief.  Tommy, similar to Dr. Loomis, is warning everyone he can come in contact with, especially the sheriff, about the destructive nature of Jason.  In this movie, Tommy is to blame for Jason’s rampage.  In Halloween, everyone blames Loomis for Myer’s escape.  Also, I like the way the filmmakers are at least trying to think through the series logically, changing the name to Forest Green is a nice touch and gives credence to the earlier films.  Some of the kill scenes are pretty gruesome, while others are just ridiculous.  Jason keeps finding longer and longer tools to impale people with.  We also see an increase in the comedic element with part 6.  McLoughlin admits to using comedy as a means to engage the viewer, doing things like following an American Express card down a watery path after Jason slaughters a victim.  For some, this a great addition while others hate the comedy.  I don’t a bit of laughter here and there, just so long as the film doesn’t completely turn on itself and makes the series its own satire.  I don’t think that happens here.

A review of part 6 would be incomplete without mentioning the great Alice Cooper soundtrack, including the title track “The Man Behind the Mask.”  If you have seen the movie, then right now you are humming “He’s Back!  He’s the man behind the mask and he’s out of control. . .”  So, if slasher flicks are your thing, then this is a pretty decent one and worth a look.