Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Jenifer (Masters of Horror) – Review

Jenifer (Masters of Horror) – Review

Jan 16, 2011

reviewed by Hallo
directed by Dario Argento, 2005
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Jenifer is one of the two short films directed by the “Italian Hitchcock” Dario Argento for the Showtime television horror series “Masters of Horror.”  I have reviewed his other film, Pelts, here.  Between these two offering by Argento for Showtime, Jenifer is clearly the stronger film and provides a great experience on multiple levels.

The story is about a married cop, Frank Spivey (Stephen Webber), who is taking a break with his partner during their beat to eat some Chinese food in their car.  After exiting the vehicle to use the bathroom, Spivey notices a crazed-eyed man dragging a bound and helpless blonde down to a deserted area by some water.  Just as the man is about to decapitate the lady with an ax, Spivey shoots him.  The last words uttered by the dying man to Spivey were simply, “Jenifer.”  When Spivey turns his attention to the battered girl, he is shocked to notice her face extremely deformed and disgusting.  Instead of trying to describe her deformity, I have simply provided a picture of her below.  After getting over the initial disgust, Spivey carries the lady back to his car and to the police station.

For whatever reason, Spivey is unable to get Jenifer off his mind.  His wife and son suddenly become uninteresting to him and his mind is occupied with the images of this girl who is beautiful in all ways other than her deformed face.  After learning that they sent the girl to a mental institution because she was “retarded”, Spivey shows up and checks her out.  The only place he can take her is home.  Jenifer is unable to speak, but shows her appreciation to Spivey by licking his hand, a gesture that weirds out the cop, but intrigues him at the same time.  From there, things get crazy.  After Spivey’s wife demands that Jenifer be taken somewhere, he unsuccessfully attempts to find a home for her.  Discouraged by his lack of success, he pulls the car over and stops to think.  Jenifer takes advantage of the pause and makes her move on Spivey, an advance that he is willing to accept.  The two become intimate in the vehicle.  From this point, Spivey is hopelessly lost in Jenifer’s trance.  Soon, the girl starts doing very strange things, like eating the cat and even killing a local child and using her organs for dinner.  Although this disgusts Spivey, he cannot bring himself to desert Jenifer.

Finally, Spivey takes Jenifer to an isolated cabin in the woods where he hopes she can’t hurt anyone.  His has lost his position on the force and takes a minimum wage paying job cleaning up a gas station.  When Jenifer lures the gas station son into the woods and kills him, Spivey snaps.  He binds Jenifer and drags her by the hands into the woods.  Just as he is about to kill her, a deer hunter shoots Spivey.  His last words to the deer hunter are, “Jenifer.”  The movie ends with Jenifer rubbing the hand of her new hero.

By far the best part of the movie was the incredible nod given to the original classic Frankenstein when Jenifer kills the local child.  The kid is playing in a puddle of water and Jenifer is shown watching her with great interest from behind.  It was a beautiful scene.  The movie is downright creepy and even scary in parts as Jenifer’s presence provides an ongoing sense of uneasiness, never knowing exactly what she is going to do or what her motives are.  She never turns on Spivey, even up to the very end, but instead ruins every part of his life and things he cares for the most.  In this way, Jenifer represents a multitude of desires, different for each one of us, that can consume us and drive us away from the things we love the most.  This is particular interesting to me as a pastor since it tells the ongoing struggle as portrayed in the Bible for all people – Romans 7 says, “the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.”  Spivey is aware that this relationship is destroying everything he loves, but he is unwilling to break away from it.  As is typically the case, Stephen Webber provides a strong performance and the film looked wonderful.

The film, of course, is not without its faults.  The most blantant being predictability.  I am not a very good “figure the movie out” person, in part because  I don’t try to figure movies out, I just enjoy them.  But I had this one pegged from 10 minutes into the film.  Although the specific actions of Jenifer were intriguing and unpredictable to a degree, the overarching plot and ending were obvious.

Coming in at 53 minutes, Jenifer is certainly worth the time to watch.  It is nice to see Argento continue to provide some quality material and the movie speaks to an inner demon living is us all.  Sin.

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