Monday, June 29, 2015

Movie #313: Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body is a teen horror movie written and produced by Diablo Cody, directed by Karyn Kusama, and starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, and Johnny Simmons.

Jennifer (Fox) is a beautiful, popular, oversexed, insecure cheerleader. Her friend Anita (Seyfried), nicknamed "Needy," which is so on the nose it hurts, is mousy and a bit more reserved, but they've been friends since childhood. The nature of their friendship is interesting; it'd be tempting to say that Jennifer uses Needy to make herself look good, and maybe that's true, but Needy uses Jennifer just as much. Plus, there's very obviously some unresolved attraction between them.

And then one night, they go to a bar to see an indie band called Low Shoulder. Needy hears the band members, led by Nikolai (Brody), say that Jennifer is perfect because she's probably a virgin. Needy confronts them, confirming that she is, but Jennifer is, in fact, pretty darned sexual. The bar catches fire, multiple people die, and the band snatches the drunk Jennifer away in their van.

That night, after Needy gets home, Jennifer shows up and vomits black ichor all over the place, but the next morning all is well. It turns out that the band members sacrificed her to Satan for success in the music biz (which they promptly get), but because Jennifer was "impure," the demon stayed in her, making her hunger for the flesh of the living. She kills roughly once a month, luring boys and feeding on them. Needy figures out that she's vulnerable when hungry, but Jennifer seduces and kills Needy's boyfriend, Chip (Simmons) before Needy can kill her.

I really like this movie, and not just because I'm a fan of Monsterhearts (which owes a lot to Jennifer's Body; the final scene is transcribed in the book). It uses a lot of familiar horror tropes, but it smartens them up. Yes, Jennifer kills people, but infrequently. The town barely has enough time to get over the tragedy at the bar (which, by the way, isn't swept under the rug but becomes part of the setting for the movie) before she kills, and then almost gets over that loss before she kills again. Likewise, Jennifer's feeding cycle plays a role in the film.

There's a lot you could say about this movie with regards to teenage girl sexuality and development; I doubt very much it's a coincidence that Jennifer feeds on a monthly cycle. Likewise, it's a throwaway line, but on the way out to the sacrifice site, Nikolai offhandedly says, "Man, I hate girls." His disdain for Jennifer is palpable, and he never shows the slightest hesitation about killing her.

The characterization in the movie is pretty spot-on in general. Jennifer's first onscreen victim is a jock (Josh Emerson), but he's not a jerk; he's in tears because his best friend died in the bar. In fact, the only real character who veers into cartoon-land is, disappointingly, the teacher played by J.K. Simmons (he seems weirdly surprised by this "rock and roll" thing the kids are into).

The dialog feels weirdly snappy, but then you remember it's a Diablo Cody movie and this is how people in Juno talk, too, and then it kinda falls into place. I really would like Cody to do more horror, actually, because this one turned out well.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Jerry Maguire