(2009) dir. Karyn Kusama
The second of semi-inegnue Diablo Cody’s screenplays to reach the big screen, Jennifer’s Body is an attempt at a sort of post-modern horror film, or post-feminism? Or post-something?
After making a huge PR splash with Juno (2007), writer Diablo Cody has found a place for herself in Hollywood, writing a monthly column for Entertainment Weekly among, no doubt, many other things. While I was a bit more critical of Juno than a lot of others, one still had some hope at this film, which takes the current “world’s hottest chick”, Megan Fox, and turns her into a teen horror succubus, gothed out to the max. I’m sure that’s about all they worried about in terms of getting young men into the cinema for this one.
But I have to say, I’m glad that I didn’t waste the money in the theater for it. It’s fucking awful.
What is the message here? At some points, Jennifer is considered “not just high school evil”, which begs the question of exactly how much sympathy or empowerment are we supposed to find in her. She’s the super-hot best friend to the nerdy “Needy”, who is really hot too, just wearing less make-up and glasses, but is supposed to be a geek. She doesn’t get much time to demonstrate who she is before she runs off with an emo band from Chicago in what looks like a potential gang rape situation. So, is she the innocent abducted? At some levels she absolutely is.
But then she comes back as uber-evil Jennifer, who is possessed by demonic needs, “filling up” on blood, and preying on teenage boys. You get the feeling that Cody is trying to go for some Heathers (1988)-level of satire here, but who are the real villains? The emo band that has to sacrifice a virgin to become famous? The uber-bitch hot girl from high school?
The thing is that Jennifer isn’t really so bad. She’s quite the victim. She’s abducted and seduced, murdered and sacrificed, and while she comes back as a monster, is it really her fault? I am willing to bet that there will be some feminist readings of this that may not be too kind. She’s empowered by her return, but soulless, and she is not hunting revenge, but rather victimizing other innocents.
And while her image, Megan Fox in a soiled ball gown, looking morose with blood on her lips calls to mind some modern twist on the already strangely empowered Carrie (1976), she’s a hollow shell of a figure. As is this whole movie, which fails to be interesting, frightening, satirical, or funny.
Cody’s dialog has already become as tired as Quentin Tarantino’s, attempting to sound hip and clever, coining phrases and making ironical verbal jokes. But it’s so tired. It needs the blood of virgins to re-invigorate it.
Actually, I was surprised how little this film had going for it. Megan Fox, whose moment in the spotlight already has the timer running out on it, hasn’t had a lot to show besides her looks. And while this looked from the outside like a real chance for a break-out opportunity, it’s really shown that beauty and cleverness are both less than skin-deep.