Archive for the Horror Category

The Line on Nine

Posted in Action, Comedy, Drama, Horror, Oscar winner, Oscar-nominated with tags , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by ericstraus

I’ve been getting very lazy with my movie reviews lately, so here’s a quick synopsis of the latest DVDs to penetrate my corneas.

The Wolfman – Unlike most of the werewolf films of the past couple of decades, this one is about as close to a remake of the original Lon Cheney film from 1941.  Set in Victorian England, Joe Johnston’s film tells the story of Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro), an actor who returns to his homeland after learning that his brother has died under mysterious circumstances.  Reunited with his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins), he begins to unravel the mystery of who – or what – has been attacking villagers under the full moon.  After Lawrence is bitten by the creature…well, you know the Wolfman story.  Visually the film is quite lovely – misty woods, cavernous mansions, etc.  But ultimately the film does nothing new for werewolf movies.  There is no new twist, nothing to really separate this one from the original, save for better special effects.  It’s not bad, but not particularly engaging either.

Final Grade for The Wolfman: C+ 

Legion – I’m a sucker for Biblical Armageddon stories, which is why I bothered watching this movie.  God has lost faith in humanity (gee I wonder why), and decides not to be so benevolent any more – he sends his army of angels to destroy mankind.  But one angel, Michael (Paul Bettany), defies God’s orders and comes to help the humans survive.  Michael’s explanation has something to do with wanting to have God regain his faith in man, but it’s not important.  Creepy ghoulish creatures begin destroying the world, and the final battle comes down to a lonely diner in the middle of the desert, where a handful of common folk must trust Michael to guide them to safety.  It’s a standard good vs. evil story, with clichés about God underestimating the humans’ courage and ability to do good…but the entertainment factor, which would be the only thing I’d hope to get out of a movie like this, was quite lacking.

Final Grade for Legion:  C

An Education – Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2010 Oscars, this coming-of-age story follows Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a very mature 16-year-old who’s only goal, according to her father (Alfred Molina), is to get into Oxford.  Jenny is exceptionally bright and talented, but everything changes when she meets David (Peter Saarsgard), a much older man who, along with two other friends, begins to show her a much larger world than she has experienced.  Eventually she becomes romantically involved with David, but as the affair goes on and she learns more about who David really is, the more she begins to question if she’s doing the right thing.  Superbly acted by the entire cast, the film is very good.  Mulligan is outstanding, and pulls our emotions from side to side as we sympathize with her yearning to be free from her parental bonds, but we fear for her as she dives headfirst into this new world.  Molina is also marvelous as the father who knows what he wants for his daughter, but also wants her to be happy.  The story is well written and succeeds on every level.

Final Grade for An Education: A- 

The Book of Eli – Why did I watch this?  Same reason I watched Legion.  Plus this one has Denzel Washington (who should have known better).  A virus has wiped out the greater population of the world, leaving a violent post-apocalyptic society in its wake.  Eli (Washington) has managed to survive and drifts from town to town, hunting for food and supplies.  We learn that he carries with him a very special book, thought to be the last of its kind left on Earth, a very powerful book that could unite people in a way that many of them had never known (much of the current population was born after the apocalypse).  Eventually a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who rules over one of the larger towns left on the planet, discovers Eli’s secret and sends his goons to recover it, as the book would undermine Carnegie’s hold on the people.  To be fair, Denzel is good in anything, even a movie as silly as this one, so just his presence makes the film watchable.  But the underlying religious message gets a little too pervasive toward the end; it’s hard to believe that a book which has caused so much war and violence could now be mankind’s savior.  But the story is good enough to keep you interested, provided you’re bored enough to want to watch it in the first place.

Final Grade for Book of Eli: C

Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Bad Blake, a one-time superstar country musician who has fallen on hard times of late.  He has been reduced to playing bowling alleys and dive bars, which has caused him to become an alcoholic, estranged from his ex-wives and his son.  After meeting young journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who wants to do a piece on him, his fog begins to lift.  Inspired by spending time with Jean and her young son, he tries to get back on track both career-wise and with his personal life.  But his self-destructive behavior won’t just fade away, and he tries to balance the good with the bad.  The film is enjoyable to watch as a musical bio-pic.  The music is actually pretty good (I say that as a non-country music fan), and Bridges’ performance is terrific, as is Gyllenhaal’s.  But some of the story is too clichéd – the alcoholism, the family problems, the struggle for resolution…we’ve seen it many times before.  But the characters do keep the viewer interested, and the film ends on a nice note.

Final Grade for Crazy Heart: B-

Runaways – Speaking of musical bio-pics, this one tells the true story of Joan Jett and the start of her rock career as the founder of the all-girl band The Runaways.  The film focuses largely on the relationship between Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning).  The film is actually based on Currie’s book Neon Angel, where she describes her rise to fame, her issues with sex and drugs, and her eventual burnout.  The story details how Jett and producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) started the band, with Fowley seeing a market for teenage girl rockers.  The band quickly becomes famous as people flock to see what Fowley calls “jailbait rock,” and the Runaways start opening for big 70’s acts like Cheap Trick and the Ramones, and they become huge stars in Japan with an almost Beatle-like fan craze.  But of course things fall apart – the media begins to focus on 15-year-old Cherie as a sex symbol, Jett and Cherie have sexual tension which spills into the creative process, and Cherie leaves the band.  The music is good, as far as punk rock goes.  The girls’ message is one of power (“Think like a man!” Fowley implores) and sex.  Stewart is very good as Jett – her passion for music really shines through.  Fanning has really come of age with this film.  Only 16 years old, she goes through the sex and drugs cycle with great poise and maturity.  It’s a good musical bio-pic, with the strongest moments stemming from the acting.  Shannon is really intense as Fowley, and is quite entertaining.

Final Grade for Runaways:  B

Alice in Wonderland – Tim Burton puts his twist on the Lewis Carroll classic, this time forming a sort of sequel to the original Alice story and Through the Looking Glass.  Alice has forgotten all about Wonderland, but she still dreams of it every night.  Just before being forced to marry an older gentleman, she sees the famous white rabbit, and follows him once again down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.  We see all the familiar characters again – the Cheshire Cat, the Blue Caterpillar, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Mad Hatter and of course the Red Queen.  They try and make Alice remember that she’d been there before, but sadly the Red Queen has taken over Wonderland.  The White Queen’s sword, the one that can defeat the monstrous Jabberwocky controlled by the Red Queen, has been stolen. Alice learns that she is the one who must restore order to Wonderland.  The characters are all well done and very funny.  Alan Rickman’s droll, sarcastic voice of the Caterpillar is terrific; Johnny Depp is truly mad as the Hatter, with his voice switching to a Scottish accent when he is angry; and Helen Bonham Carter is hysterical as the evil Red Queen.  The story is not great – it takes on a whole Lord of the Rings battle feel, which doesn’t work well.  The film succeeds with the special effects, the acting and the writing.  It’s a very funny film, particularly the scenes with the March Hare who cartoonishly hurls breakable objects everywhere, the Red Queen who likes to rest her feet on a live pig, and with Depp, who combines silliness with cleverness in a, well, clever way.  Burton’s creativity is obvious in the digital landscape of Wonderland, from the vivid colors of the forest to the majesty of the castles.

Final Grade for Alice in Wonderland: B-

Hot Tub Time Machine – This screwball comedy follows friends Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry).  Their friendship has waned over the years, their lives are all somewhat pathetic, and after a suicide attempt by Lou, they decide to reconnect by going back to Kodiak Valley, a ski resort where they spent their glory days during the 80’s.  The resort has since become a dump, but the friends get drunk and end up in a hot tub which somehow transports them back to 1986 in their 1986 bodies.  They learn that in order to get back to the present, they must do everything exactly as they did 24 years ago or the future will be different.  So of course they change the future – but for the better?  There are actually a lot of laughs during the first half, but as the film goes on, the laughs get fewer and fewer as the movie tries to make some point about friendship and the choices we make in life.  It’s disappointing, as they could have just gone for a straight-forward gross-out comedy and not tried to infuse some sentimentality into it – the Hangover was so successful because it didn’t attempt any kind of message; it just delivered laugh after laugh.  The 80’s references are amusing but ultimately don’t really add much to the film.  Corddry is hilarious – a lot of his style that made him fun to watch years ago on the Daily Show comes through.  And Crispin Glover is also hysterical – good to see him working again.  There are still some laughs at the end, but by then the momentum has died.

Final Grade for Hot Tub Time Machine: C+

Kick-Ass – A movie for comic-book lovers and superhero movie aficionados, Kick-Ass tells the story of average kid Dave, who wonders why nobody has ever tried to become an actual superhero.  So he dons a costume, does some minor physical training and hits the streets.  He is quickly disillusioned when he tries to stop a car break-in and gets his butt kicked.  But soon he learns that there are two real superheroes in town – Big Daddy and Hit Girl.  Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) has trained his daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) to fight crime, as they plan to take revenge on the city’s crime boss Frank D’Amico.  Eventually Dave (who calls his superhero alter ego “Kick-Ass”) gains a reputation around town, and must team with Big Daddy and Hit Girl to topple D’Amico’s empire.  The film isn’t very good, filled with every comic book cliché you can imagine.  The saving grace is Moretz’s performance as Hit Girl.  She is an action star in the making, combining feminine cuteness with hard-ass brutality.  But overall the story is dull and doesn’t leave much to think about.

Final Grade for Kick-Ass: C-

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“Daybreakers” Sheds Some Light on Vampires

Posted in Action, Horror with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2010 by ericstraus

With the prevalence of vampire film and television shows these days, it’s hard to find any originality in the genre.  HBO’s series “True Blood” has taken an interesting angle, creating a world where vampires are integrated into human society, and the backlash that accompanies such inclusion.  The film “Daybreakers” takes the concept one step further, positing a futuristic world where vampires are not the minority – they are the overwhelming majority, and it’s the humans who are outcasts and must struggle to survive.  Combining elements of “The Matrix” and “28 Days Later,” it’s a decent vampire movie with solid acting, gory blood special effects, and a thought-provoking take on what’s becoming a stale genre.

The film takes place 10 years in the future, and we learn that a vampire virus of sorts infected 90% of the earth’s population in the present day; the virus either killed its victims or turned them into vampires.  This new majority gave the human race a choice – become a vampire, or become food.  So for the last 10 years, humans have been on the run, hiding from the rest of the world.  The vampires have continued living as a civilized society; they all have jobs, apartments, homes, families, etc.  The only changes, major as they are, are that they cannot go out in daylight, and must feed on human blood.  But technology has evolved enough to make vampire life easier – underground tunnels allow vampires to go from place to place during the day, and their cars are equipped with “daylight mode,” where the windows darken and the driver uses several monitors to see outside.  Their food source is at the heart of the matter – major corporations now harvest human blood in mass quantities for distribution.  Vampires line up at Starbucks to get a shot of blood or two in their coffee. 

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist for one of these corporations, working to find a blood substitute so that vampires won’t have to rely on humans for their sustenance.  Dalton is one of a minority of vampires who believe that hunting humans for their blood is wrong – he looks with disdain at the horrific machines that slowly drain naked humans of their blood.  Under the direction of Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), he works hard trying to synthesize a blood substitute because the human population is dwindling, and therefore so is the vampires’ food.  Some vampires have begun transformation due to their starvation, becoming evil, vile creatures with wings and tails, living in the tunnels underground.  Dalton comes across a band of humans on the run, and as he is sympathetic to their cause, he joins them and meets Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe), who we learn was turned into a vampire but then changed back through controlled exposure to ultraviolet rays.  Dalton makes it his mission to harness that power so that vampirism can be cured.

The gore is not gratuitous, but we are dealing with blood as a main character of the film, so there is plenty of it to be splattered around.  The film does pose an intriguing societal situation – if Dalton finds a cure, would vampires want to become human again?  Dalton’s brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) disagrees – he tells us he never “fit in” as a human.  But as a hunter of humans for the military, he feels like he belongs, and he rejects Edward’s compassion for the human species.  In reality, this question is true for anyone who has a disability or is not considered to be “normal” – if there was a cure, would you want it?  Or should people embrace who they are, regardless of what they are? 

The vampires do not have the luxury of pondering that choice for long, because in the film, if they kill all the humans, they kill themselves, hence the corporations’ need for a blood substitute.  The dialogue is well-written, the action sequences are fun, and overall, it’s an enjoyable vampire movie that manages to maintain some originality.  The only thing missing was Barry Manilow’s song “Daybreak” somewhere in the film.

Final Grade for Daybreakers: B

Close Encounters with “The Fourth Kind”

Posted in Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by ericstraus

The “realism” approach to horror films has been a popular trend ever since the success of the “Blair Witch Project.”  Films like “Cloverfield” and “Paranormal Activity” play on the concept of documentary-style horror, where the scares seem more realistic because the audience is witnessing them “first-hand.”  “The Fourth Kind” is another attempt to capitalize on this kind of filmmaking, and is successful in creating a scary, somewhat realistic look at alien encounters.

The film begins with star Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element) addressing the audience, explaining that the role she will be playing is based on a real person, and that the film’s scenes are re-creations of actual events.  This concept is supported throughout the film by side-by-side scenes of the re-enactment along with the supposed “real” scenes.  Jovovich plays Abbey Tyler, a psychologist in Nome, Alaska who while under hypnosis from her own therapist, experiences disturbing and emotional visions about the death of her husband.  Nome has been rife with strange disappearances and odd behavior, and part of Abbey’s quest to understand her own problems is to interview people in town who have experienced strange things.  She discovers that all of her subjects have experienced the same vision, though it is unclear if it’s been while dreaming or not.  Abbey then puts her subjects under hypnosis, and that’s when the real frights begin.  Horrific scenes unfold before the hypnotized people, strange voices are heard, and as the audience, we see the “actual footage” of these videotaped hypnosis sessions, along with the recreations by the actors.

Eventually we learn that aliens are involved in the stereotypical fashion of abducting people and conducting painful experiments on them.  But the real fright that we experience as an audience comes from the “actual” hypnotherapy sessions; director Olatunde Osunsanmi does a nice job of convincing us that the videotaped interviews are real.  Seeing Jovovich and the other actors having nightmarish experiences is not scary – seeing the “real” Abbey Tyler’s face contort and voice change into a demonic tone is certainly unnerving.  There is “footage” from a sheriff’s dashboard camera that shows one of the aliens’ victims kill his family and himself because he can’t take the visions and the nightmares, which is a very disturbing scene.

The mystery that unfolds is not all that intriguing – it seems to be based on actual alien abduction stories (the film’s ending credits feature actual 9-1-1 calls from people seeing UFOs along with newspaper headlines about the same); what keeps us riveted to the screen is the progression of the hypnotherapy sessions, and the horrific images contained therein.  If you like a good scare and don’t think that typical slasher films are frightening, you should enjoy this movie.

Final Grade for The Fourth Kind: B

All Smiles in “Zombieland”

Posted in Comedy, Horror with tags , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by ericstraus

It’s rare to find horror films with likeable characters; you usually end up rooting for the demons/zombies/serial killer/giant lizard to kill everyone because they’re so annoying.  Plus most of those films are hard to take seriously in the first place, filmmakers included.  One film in recent memory that created both likeable characters and a serious look at the genre was 2003’s “28 Days Later,” which to me is a masterpiece of the zombie film genre.  2009’s “Zombieland” is the most enjoyable zombie flick to come out since “28 Days Later,” and while it is far from a serious, dramatic view of a zombie-infested world, the characters are very likeable, the story moves along well, the zombie deaths are creative and plentiful, and at a quick 88 minutes, it’s a fun romp through the comedy/horror genre.

The opening credits let us know this won’t be a run-of-the-mill horror film, with its extreme slow-motion shots of terrified citizens being pursued by deranged, carnivorous cretins.  “Zombieland” is narrated by and stars the relatively unknown Jesse Eisenberg, who does a great job playing the naïve, nice-guy role (akin to Michael Cera in “Juno”).  He explains to us that Mad Cow disease has ravaged the planet, turning all infected people into raging, bloodthirsty zombie-like creatures (they’re not technically zombies because they aren’t “undead,” just very very ill).  He knows he is among a very scant number of survivors, and he has created his own set of rules to live by, literally.  He decides to journey to Columbus, Ohio to see if any of his family is still alive, but we can tell he is already resigned to the fact that they’re all gone; he just needs something to look ahead to.  Along the way he runs into a spitfire dubbed “Tallahassee” (the only names the survivors have are the cities where they’re from), played by Woody Harrelson.  At first it seems that Tallahassee is going to be one of those cookie-cutter no-B.S. kick-ass warriors typical of the genre, but Harrelson brings wealth of humor and sensitivity to the role; the interactions between “Columbus” and Tallahassee are well done and fun to watch.

The journey continues, and they come across two young ladies (known as “Wichita” and “Little Rock”), who dupe our male heroes into giving up their guns and vehicle.  Wichita, played by Emma Stone (Superbad, House Bunny) and Little Rock, played by Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) have bonded together and trust no one.  We learn that they are trying to get to an amusement park in California; as Wichita says, Little Rock had to “grow up too fast,” and the park would be a great way to feel young again. Plus they heard it was zombie-free (you can imagine how that turns out).

Our four protagonists run into each other again, and this time they decide to stick together for survival’s sake.  They make it to California and decide to hole up at Bill Murray’s house (they get a map of the stars’ homes and Harrelson insists they go to Murray’s house).  The ensuing scene is fraught with hilarity, as we learn Murray is not dead or infected.  During the layover in Murray’s spacious mansion, a romance begins to develop between Columbus and Wichita, and we learn about each of the group’s pasts before the epidemic.  These mildly dramatic scenes are not corny or irrelevant; we get just enough info to care about the characters and hope they survive.

Eventually the cadre ends up at the amusement park and a final showdown with the throngs of the infected takes place.  The film does begin to lose some momentum by this point, but it’s been a fun ride.  There is a great scene inside a roadside souvenir shop where everyone lets loose and destroys everything; it begs the question that if you were among a handful of survivors of a worldwide apocalypse, what would you do?  Certainly consequence-free destruction might play a part.  The sets are great – abandoned cars along endless stretches of highway, the spooky amusement park straight out of Scooby-Doo, and a scene on Hollywood Boulevard, where, ironically, the confused and sick bodies of the infected souls don’t seem too out of place.

As I mentioned, there is a lot of humor, but “Zombieland” is not a spoof of genre – it’s a smart, funny and entertaining zombie film with good characters…and that’s a rarity.

Final Grade for Zombieland: B+

Get Your “Freak” On

Posted in Action, Horror with tags , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by ericstraus

There is a vampire craze on television and in movies these days – the “Twilight” series, HBO’s “True Blood,” and “Vampire Diaries” on the CW network are all extremely popular, focusing on the integration of vampires (and other mythological creatures) into modern society.  But slipping under the radar was a film last year called “Cirque de Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant,” based on the Cirque de Freak book series by Darren Shan.  Perhaps no one noticed this film because it doesn’t have any teen heartthrobs (well-known ones anyway), nor does it center on vampires’ inclusion in “normal” society.  I did not expect much from it, but it’s a decent vampire flick with an interesting (although not totally original) story.

Chris Massoglia plays Darren Shan, a slightly nerdy high-schooler with an obsession for spiders who does his best to stay on the straight and narrow, but is often pulled off the path by his life-long best friend Steve, played by Josh Hutcherson, a rebellious sort with a passion for the world of vampires.  A flyer advertising a freak show wafts to their feet, thrown from the window of a mysterious purple Rolls Royce driving by.  Darren and Steve, intrigued by the flyer, end up sitting in the front row and are introduced to a variety of circus performers, from the super tall emcee aptly named Mr. Tall (played terrifically by Ken Wantanabe), to Evra the Snake Boy (played by Patrick Fugit), and Salma Hayek as Madame Truska, a voluptuous beauty who can grow a beard on command.  The final act is Larten Crepsley, played by John C. Reilly.  Steve thinks he recognizes Crepsley from one of his vampire books.  Crepsley is a magician of sorts who carries around an extremely large, poisonous and rare species of spider – Darren is entranced by the spider and decides he must have it for his own.  He hides in Crepsley’s dressing room and overhears a conversation between Crepsley and Mr. Tall, where he learns some amazing secrets about Crepsley and the other freaks.  But he escapes with the spider and brings it to school, where it gets loose and ends up biting Steve.  Feeling horribly guilty, Darren confesses his crime to Crepsley in hopes of getting an antidote for Steve.  Crepsely agrees to give him the antidote on one condition – Darren must become his assistant, and must become a half-vampire.  Darren agrees, in order to save his friend.

Things get complicated after Steve realizes that Darren has become half-vampire, a dream that Steve has had for years.  We begin to learn of the war between vampires and “vampanese,” a vampire species bent on killing humans, while vampires only feed on, but don’t kill humans.  Darren must begin to use his new powers to save his fellow man and protect the freak show society, of which he’s become a part, while Steve’s loyalties are questioned and sides are chosen.

Reilly seems a bit out of his comfort zone playing a vampire – he’s good at being an oddball, but as a vampire, it doesn’t quite work.  The plot is somewhat reminiscent of the “Blade” films, where violent vampire sects break from the pack and force their own agenda…it’s also similar to the “X-Men” series when mutants have to choose either between the pacifist side that wants to integrate into human society, or the revolutionary side which wants to take control.

The film is entertaining as the plot unfolds, and we see the two sides pitted against one another.  The freak society is quite enjoyable as far as characters go – Fugit’s Snake Boy has an ambition of being a rock star, but feels handicapped because, well…he’s a snake boy.  We feel sympathy for the freak side of life, and therefore look for a happy ending where the freaks win.  But the film’s conclusion is somewhat open-ended, begging for a sequel; a sequel which will most likely go as unnoticed as the original.  But if you’re sick of the “Twilight”-style of vampirism of late, “Cirque de Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” is a good alternative.

Final Grade for Cirque de Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: C+

Up Close and Personal With “Jennifer’s Body”

Posted in Comedy, Horror with tags , , , on March 22, 2010 by ericstraus

Following her Oscar-winning screenplay for 2008’s “Juno,” writer Diablo Cody turned her pen to a horror/comedy film called “Jennifer’s Body,” starring Megan Fox (Transformers) and Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Mamma Mia!).  Like “Juno,” the film focuses on the teen angst of high school girls, only this time instead of tackling a realistic topic like teen pregnancy, Cody presents a story of satanic ritual, demonic possession and cannibalism.  And yes, it’s somewhat of a comedy.

Fox plays the title character Jennifer, and in a real stretch for her, she is the hottest girl on the planet and everyone, including herself, knows it.  Seyfried plays her best friend Needy, an appropriate name in relation to how her and Jennifer’s relationship works, and has always worked – they’ve been best friends since childhood.  Jennifer is the dominant shot-caller, and Needy is the plain-Jane support system when Jennifer needs her to be.  Jennifer is a stereotypical shallow, materialistic cheerleader who uses her looks and her body to get anything she wants – she sleeps with a cop in case she runs across any legal entanglements, she flashes her chest to get free (and illegal) drinks at a bar, etc.  Needy disapproves of course, but knows Jennifer will do what she wants.

Bad things start to happen when Jennifer decides she wants to bed the singer of a local emo-rock band, who they go to see at the aforementioned bar.  After a fire engulfs the place, Jennifer and Needy escape and find the band waiting outside.  They invite Jennifer to come with them in their van, and despite Needy’s pleading with her not to go, Jennifer goes.  She turns up later that night in Needy’s house, bloody and horrific, her teeth stained crimson.

We later learn, after several high school boys’ bodies turn up mutilated and dead, that Jennifer has been possessed by a demon through a ritual performed by the rock band.  This demon-summoning process would in turn procure the band fame and fortune.  What went wrong, apparently, was that they were supposed to sacrifice a virgin, which Jennifer obviously wasn’t, and so now the demon inhabits her body and must feed on human flesh.  The demon only presents itself when it’s hungry – until then, Jennifer looks and acts like her normal self.  But when it’s feeding time, she looks weak and vulnerable, until she feasts on another victim.

Eventually Needy has to choose between protecting her friend and protecting the innocent townsfolk.  So the film is a sort of commentary on true friendship, and on society’s obsession with physical appearance.  There are a few laughs, and the horror elements are actually filmed quite well by director Karyn Kusama.  Fox, while certainly well cast as the “hot chick,” is somewhat annoying to watch.  Her inflection and tone are the same with every line she delivers.  But as an evil seductress, she succeeds.  There are several slow-motion shots of her sauntering down the school hallway in sexy attire, showing her own self-confidence and ogle-inducing aura.

The film leaves many unanswered questions, like how did the rock band come across this satanic ritual?  Why did they assume that by performing it they’d get rich and famous?  Apparently it’s none of our business, and we don’t necessarily need to know.  The film is entertaining enough on its own; Seyfried does a really nice job convincing us that her inner conflict is real, and makes us root for her to finally do the right thing, to take control of her relationship with Jennifer.  In the end, Jennifer’s assumption that she can always take Needy for granted is what does her in.  The film is not as edgy as I think Cody would like us to think it is, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and there have been far worse teen horror/comedies in recent years.

Final Grade for Jennifer’s Body: B-