Yes, I'm generalizing here, but I'm allowed.
It was released on DVD around the holidays to no fanfare...but does it deserve some? I mean, wouldn't it be kind of nice if the movie was actually worth watching and not the big, steaming pile that genre fans hoped it would be? Well? Wouldn't it? Answer me, dammit! I...
...err, yes. "Needy" (Amanda Seyfried) and Jennifer (Megan Fox) are total besties, and they have been since early grade school. Now high schoolers, they're navigating life in the town of Devil's Kettle, a cold, rural town in the Midwest. When the band Low Shoulder comes to play at the Kettle's only excuse for a bar, Jennifer drags Needy to the show. The band is just capable and just cute enough to entrance Jennifer, whose eyes are glued to the stage. Needy, however, notices that all of a sudden the bar is on fucking fire- the girls and the band make it out alive, but eight other people don't.
As the tavern burns, the band's singer (Adam Brody) cajoles a shocked Jennifer to get in his van. Despite Needy's insistence that it's a really bad idea, she climbs in. As she settles in, surrounded by a bunch of skeevy guys, there's a sort of great moment between Jennifer and Needy; the latter looks on helplessly, and there's a hint that Jennifer may have changed her mind, may have realized at the last moment that yeah- this is a really bad idea. Still, she's resigned to her fate; the door of the van closes and it drives away. Sometimes movies have those perfect moments that ring of absolute truth, and this is one. Everyone knows a girl...or maybe is a girl...who would quiet the voice of reason and climb into that van. It's the girl who would sleep with a z-grade rocker for that tiny bit of fame that would...well, rub off on her and give her a moment's escape from her shitty life in her shitty small town. I have no idea if Kusama and Cody meant that moment to be as deep as I'm saying it is- who knows, maybe it's not that deep at all- but with the specter of gang rape hanging over Jennifer's head (and the inability of Needy to prevent it), it's really the most horrifying sequence in the film.
Low Shoulder didn't abscond with Jennifer for sex, however- they're simply looking for a virgin to sacrifice in the hopes that Satan will grant them success. The wrench in the works: Jennifer's not a virgin. Surpisingly, this isn't a detriment to the band's efforts; they get the success they desired and it's Jennifer who still pays the price. She shows up at Needy's house bloodied, muddied, and ravenous. She pukes up some black liquid that seems alive, then splits to leave her best friend to wonder what's going on.
What's going on is that Jennifer now has a demon inside her. She's been transformed into a succubus, and in order to survive she must feast on the blood of men- or, at least, the male population of Devil's Kettle High.
Boys start turning up dead, Jennifer is alternately greasy & sallow and clean & squeaky, while Needy tries to figure what's going on and stop it before her boyfriend becomes a victim. As you may have guessed, this all puts a bit of a strain on the relationship between the girls.
So what's wrong here? Doesn't all the world love a good succubus story?
The downfall of Jennifer's Body is that it's not enough of any one thing; it falls squarely between genres, residing in some cinematic Negative Zone. It's not horror enough for the horror crowd, it's too horror for the comedy crowd; though it's about young people, it's a bit too mature to resonate with that demographic. Jennifer doesn't have a proper home.
Karyn Kusama bathes the world in pretty, candilicious color, perhaps in an attempt to give Jennifer's Body a fairy tale feel. While it does make the film enjoyable to watch, again- it's not enough of any one thing. Were the theatricality heightened, the story might come off like a Tim Burton film, a fable true to the folklore of the succubus. Were the horror movie aspects heightened- more gore, more violence- it would have succeeded as a monster movie.
And then, of course, there's
Though it's more than a bit futile to spend much time wishing a movie was this or that instead of what it actually is, sometimes you can't help it...or I can't help it, especially when it comes to Jennifer's Body. There are a few baby-sized ideas at work that, had any been developed further, would have made for a much more interesting film. In particular, I'm thinking of the relationship between Needy and Jennifer. Though seemingly a mismatched pair (Needy's a geek! Jennifer's a hottie!), the friendship between the two has survived because they just get each other.
The kiss between the girls, talked about during the film's production to drum up buzz, is a bit of sensationalism, sure...but in the context of their relationship, it makes sense. There are broad hints that Jennifer and Needy are simply in love with one another. They kiss, they hold hands, they gaze at each other from afar...Needy thinks about Jennifer while having sex with her boyfriend- granted, it's not necessarily sexual thoughts, but the point stands. Had this theme been fleshed out rather than hinted at, it would have made a stronger film. Instead, the idea withers on the vine.
Towards the end of the film, Needy lets fly the "truth" about Jennifer: that she's a terrible friend, a has-been at school, a girl pretty thanks to an eating disorder. Mind you, nothing in all the minutes that preceded that scene gave us any notion that their friendship wasn't anything but healthy- Jennifer's lousy behavior didn't start until after she was sacrificed. Again, it's a coulda been plot thread; the once-popular girl driven to great lengths to recapture her glory days would have been interesting (not to mention it would have echoed the succubus lore nicely). But alas, we're left to just take Needy's word for it.
I know all this reads as if I'm not endorsing Jennifer's Body, but I am. I watched it twice before I reviewed it (both the theatrical and extended versions), and it was a much more satisfying film the second go-round. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, certainly; as I said, it's decidedly a "Diablo Cody" film (if a person can be rendered a genre), and in the horror department it's rather lite. Still, I don't think it necessarily deserved the huge ass-whuppin' it got. It looks nice, it's got a bit to chew on, and really- who doesn't love a good succubus story?
That said, I'm still irritated by the song that begins the end credit sequence. If you're going to name your film after a track from Hole's Live Through This and you decide to use a track from Hole's Live Through This in said film, why the fuck would you use "Violet" instead of "Jennifer's Body"? This, it makes no sense. Just had to get that off my chest.