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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-

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