What To Watch: Time Has Been Good To ‘Jennifer’s Body’ (2009)
Jennifer’s Body is a 2009 black comedy/horror film about a newly possessed high school cheerleader who turns into a succubus, specializes in killing her male classmates.
Let’s hop in the DeLoren, rev up the Flux Capacitor and set that dial back to September 2009, to the debut of a new horror comedy starring the hottest thing in Hollywood. That would be Megan Fox, who back then was all the talk, the sultry, raven-haired beauty just off two Transformer movies and plowing a rebellious path through the thick it all with her exotic good looks and devastating eyes. Her first lead role is this, Jennifer’s Body, a sexy vampire-ish tale that met with mixed reviews from critics and floundered at the box office, despite the good cast and talented director.
I’ll be the first to say that the movie, when it came out, didn’t quite strike me as well its potential seemed able, perhaps the fervor over Fox drowning out my ability to take it seriously. The Transformer films numbed me to the whole Fox phenomenon and I’m pretty sure I really didn’t give Jennifer’s Body any chance. Perhaps I didn’t need to, but it surfaced again, somehow, in my ‘ought to rewatch’ list, and so, being in the spirit of Halloween, gave it a second look. And I’m glad I did. Wanna know why? Let’s do this.
THE STORY: So there’s this maniac high school girl named Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) who starts the movie in a mental institution, violent and reckless before we flashback and see that she used to be a geeky bookworm with a nice boyfriend. Her best friend is Jennifer (Fox), the most popular girl in school, a beautiful cheerleader with a penchant for bad behavior.
Jennifer convinces Needy to go to a seedy bar to see a band from out of time called Low Shoulder, but once there, a fire breaks out, killing several people inside while Jennifer runs out with the band. When she shows up at Needy’s house later, covered in blood, she’s not able to eat, vomiting up a gooey black liquid. It’s only the start. Not long after, Jennifer goes on a killing spree and Needy soon learns that Jennifer is actually undead, a sacrifice to the devil that went wrong because she wasn’t a virgin, turning her into a bloodthirsty succubus. Best friends forever!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Written by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody (Juno), Jennifer’s Body is actually a wicked little dark comedy that works on a number of levels. It plays to the girls while attracting the boys, casually avoiding reality while spinning a convincingly chaotic world of make believe that is as much a spoof of the vampire trend as it is a legit bit of horror comedy.
Director Karyn Kusama mixes in plenty of well-earned laughs with all the horror, which admittedly isn’t all that heavy, even though there are lots of icky moments. As the body count goes up, she and Cody continually spike the film with sharp dialogue and stylistic visuals. It doesn’t hurt to have the likes of J.K. Simmons and Chris Pratt in the cast though to be sure, Seyfried holds her own, playing the frumpy Needy. She embraces the goofiness of it all a terrific performance, suspecting what’s going on and trying to keep up. It’s actually kinda funny.
And then there’s Fox, who is the whole show. She’s strong, funny, a little frightening and a lot sexy, while also revealing some great depth and skill in handling the twisted character. The film is pretty upfront with its themes of sexuality and teenage awkwardness, never exploiting it for show but refreshingly honest with its attitude, even as some of it is surely metaphorical. Fox delves full on into the fray, delivering lines with razor sharp bite while never over-doing it. You try to say, “You give me such a wettie” and not make it sound ridiculous. It’s good stuff.
A GREAT MOMENT: To get too much into the story would be to spoil all the fun, as there are some really good scenes that Kusama manages to squeeze just the right amount of goodness from. That said, there is a terrific moment that works really well, where both Jennifer and Needy are … well, seducing men.
Well, let me rephrase that. Needy is having an emotional sexual encounter with her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons), a boy she really loves. It’s tender, sensual, and authentic. Meanwhile, Jennifer is across town, luring a Goth guy named Colin (Kyle Gallner) to an abandoned house with the promise of sex. Let’s just say it is entirely opposite of what’s happening with Needy. The film plays on the opposites as if for that very reason, before becoming something else entirely, the bond between these girls a little more powerful than Needy thought. I won’t say anything more, but it’s a very cool scene that shifts the film into the very dark third act. There’s a funeral scene with a crushed mother that is just fantastic.
THE TALLY: Jennifer’s Body is not the game-changer it might have been, as it never goes as heavy or as scary as it should have. Nonetheless, this is a much better movie than its reputation, a well-made gritty bit of fun that is smart, sleek, sexy, and highly entertaining. If you passed it up before, don’t hesitate now. There’s a lot to like. Jennifer’s Body. It’s what to watch.