Written by: Diablo Cody
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, and Johnny Simmons
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"No. I mean, she's actually evil. Not high school evil."
"No. I mean, she's actually evil. Not high school evil."
Two years ago, a little independent film called Juno rocked the mainstream film world and became the sleeper hit of the year. The film not only garnered praise for star Ellen Page, but also for the quirky, off-beat writing and dialogue of screenwriter Diablo Cody. After kicking ass, taking names, and even winning an Academy Award, Cody took the most logical route for her next project: Jennifer's Body a demented tale of a vengeful, demon-possessed cheerleader starring Megan Fox. A tale full of roaring rampage and revenge, Jennifer's Body is a witty, blood-soaked romp that separates itself from its contemporaries.
A small midwestern town called Devil's Kettle is home to Jennifer Check, the cheerleader that every guy is dying to be with. One night, Jennifer and her more geeky friend Needy Lesnicky decide to check out a local band at a small bar on the edge of town. Jennifer's going for more than the music, as the band's lead singer is a "salty" number. During the concert a fire erupts and burns the club to the ground, killing almost everyone inside. Jennifer and Needy survive, but so too does the band, who whisk Jennifer away in their van. Later that night, Jennifer returns to town, but she's just a little different, as she's blood-soaked and has a voracious appetite. Apparently Jennifer's body is no longer her own, as it now houses a murderous demon that compels her to feed upon the flesh of all the boys and girls in town (yep, she goes both ways).
First things first, let's get some things out of the way: by no means has the Transformers movies been a good showcase for Megan Fox's acting talent thus far, and I don't know that this performance will change many minds. However, it's because it doesn't really have to; instead, she's only here to parade around half-naked, be sultry, seduce everything on two legs, talk about the pains of anal sex, and be an uber-bitch. She does all of this undeniably well, and with a movie titled Jennifer's Body, it's pretty obvious to see the appeal of Megan Fox here. She handles Cody's unique dialogue well, and one kind of gets the sense that she's playing herself, but it works because she is quite a character.
However, don't let the film's title fool you: the true star of the film isn't the title character at all. Instead, it's Amanda Seyfried in the role of Needy that completely steals the show. The story is told from her perspective, and she's ostensibly the film's main character. The character herself is a cute, understated counterbalance to Fox's villainous jezebel. As the film progresses, Jennifer and Needy's relationship grows complicated, and it's fun to watch Seyfried and Fox play off each other. Seyfried brings a very sympathetic presence to the film, which is important because there are actually a few poignant moments to be had among all the mayhem. By the end of the film, Cody and Seyfried have crafted one of the best new characters in a horror film in a while, which is quite a surprise given the film's title.
Besides Seyfried, the star here is again Cody's screenplay, particularly her witty dialogue that's full of stylized conversations and snappy, quirky phrases. While it doesn't exactly sound realistic and sometime gets a little too cute for its own good, Cody's writing is without a doubt hysterical. The comedy ranges from genuinely hilarious situations and interactions (like awkward teenage sex) to being cleverly ironic. Though it's got a horror premise, Jennifer's Body has its tongue planted firmly in its demented cheek, and it's a fun world full of unique characters. J.K. Simmons even makes an appearance as a science teacher who is full of awkward moments. It's quite a departure from his usual roles, but he makes it work in the little bit of screen time that he has. Other characters run the gamut of the usual high school cliches, like the goth and the jock that are of course equal in Jennifer's eye as far as nutritional value goes.
Not to be overshadowed, Karyn Kusama's direction brings Cody's script to life. The film is very well-shot, exhibits a lot of style, and is even quite atmospheric at times. Though the movie plays out like a black comedy most of the time, Kusama is able to reign it in and keep it just serious and grounded enough so that there's some weight to the characters and their conflicts. It's a bit of a difficult film to describe in this respect, as it's both a high school drama film and a splatter movie. That said, it never really descends into just being an over-the-top splatter-fest either; there's some nice gore strewn throughout, mostly in the form of recently devoured corpses. The film also isn't full of the typical loud jump scares that populate modern horror; indeed, as a horror film, Jennifer's Body is a bit of a unique experience because it doesn't really ever feel like it's trying to scare you or even gross you out too much. Instead, it's just an immensely entertaining experience that's without even a slightly dull moment.
Chock-full of demonic possession, non-virgin sacrifice, a Satan-worshiping indie rock band, a lesbian make-out session, cat-fights, references to The Evil Dead, and other generally bloody mayhem, Jennifer's Body is one of the most entertaining films 2009 has to offer from any genre. As someone who has always been a fan of these sort of humorous, bloody romps, this one delivers in every respect. I think audiences will be hard-pressed to find a more fun horror film this year. In many ways, referencing The Evil Dead is appropriate because this feels very much like a Sam Raimi film in its masterful blend of style, black humor, and bloody thrills. Jennifer's Body is definitely one to covet and worth your dollars for a theatrical viewing. It'll also earn a spot on any horror enthusiast's shelf when it hits home video. Buy it!
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