Monday, February 7, 2011

Checking out Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body (2009)
Directed by Karyn Kasuma
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons

"That Band, Low shoulder - they're totally evil. 
They're basically like agents of Satan with really great haircuts."

Jennifer's body was made in 2009, starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried and directed by Karyn Kasuma. It features wrap around segments of a blond girl named Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried) in a mental institute.


She is a violent inmate, and psychologically disturbed… but she wasn’t always this way…

**Spoilers ahead. Be warned**

Rock band Low Shoulder is coming to the town of Devil’s Kettle.  They're playing at a local dive bar, the kind of shitty place where bands pay their dues while struggling to make it.

High school cheerleader Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) talks her best friend Needy into going to the show with her. Once there Jennifer makes her way to the stage to talk to the band. When Jennifer steps away for a moment Needy overhears the band discussing whether Jennifer is a virgin or not. She confronts them, angry they’re talking about her friend like that, but they blow her off and shortly thereafter begin playing their set.  Apparently the people of Devil’s Kettle have really, really bad taste in music, because this band sucks, but they’re all digging it. Jennifer stands frozen in place, staring at the singer like she’s in a trance. She can’t take her eyes off him, as if she’s hypnotized.

During the first song an electrical fire breaks out to the side of the stage. The place quickly goes up in flames, and Jennifer and Needy escape through a bathroom window. Chaos ensues and many of the patrons don’t make it out alive.

Once outside the girls catch their breath. Jennifer, however, seems to be still in a trance. The lead singer of Low Shoulder finds them and tells them he's glad they made it out okay. He invites the girls back to his van. Jennifer agrees to go with him, but Needy thinks it’s a bad idea. The van drives off leaving Needy at the club.


Once Needy gets home she calls her boyfriend Chip and informs him of everything that just happened. When she hangs up the phone she hears something downstairs. She finds Jennifer in her kitchen, covered in blood and acting really strangely.

She pulls a chicken out of the fridge and starts eating it, then vomits up some kind of vile black fluid that shimmers. She attacks Needy, pinning her against a wall, and asks her, "Are you scared?" She then tosses Needy to the floor and leaves without harming her.

Out on the street Jennifer runs across a boy who was also at the club. Once she finds out no one knows he made it out of the club safely, she lures him into the woods. Snack time!

You see there was a reason the band was interested in Jennifer's sexual status - they needed a virgin for a sacrifice to Satan. They were tired of paying their dues (and obviously didn't have the talent to make it on their own) so they decided to take a shortcut. They took Jennifer to the waterfalls the town is named for, and killed her with a bowie knife while reading some words they found in a book on witchcraft at the library.

But they made a mistake. It turns out that if the person sacrificed isn't really a virgin, something else happens - and surprise - Jennifer wasn't a virgin! It's called Demonic Transference, and it means the ceremony still works but the demon is trapped inside the body of the victim, forcing them to feed on human flesh. It also gives them powers, basically turning them into a flesh eating supervillain. Jennifer is now a succubus, a demon-possessed temptress that has to feed on human flesh.

The next day at school everyone is mourning the tragedy at the club, except for Jennifer, who seems positively giddy. She’s in a great mood and all this sadness is bringing her down. After school she finds a football player on the practice field who is very upset at the loss of his best friend at the club. She talks him into going into the woods alone with her, where she’ll help get his mind off his friend.

They start making out and she starts dropping clothes. Suddenly her mouth opens about three times larger than normal, teeth sprout and black shit oozes out of it. She lunges at him and starts ripping him apart.

A teacher hears the screams and investigates. By the time he gets there she’s gone, the boy is dead and a deer is licking blood from his chest cavity. She literally ripped his heart out!

 Jennifer begins feeding on other boys of Devil's Kettle, too, and it is up to Needy and her boyfriend, Chip, to stop her.

This eventually leads to a big showdown in an abandoned swimming pool house. Chip is killed and Jennifer gets away. Oh, and this is after the craptastic Low Shoulder play at the High School dance, and we're treated to the same song they played at the club at the beginning of the movie, "Through the Trees." Again.


Later that evening Jennifer is back home chilling in her bedroom, as if nothing ever happened. Suddenly an enraged and completely over the edge Needy bursts through Jennifer's bedroom window and attacks her. She has a box knife, and intends to end this insanity once and for all. According to a passage in a book on witchcraft from her school library (man these libraries have some well stocked occult sections) the only way to destroy the demon is to plunge a knife in the heart of its host’s body. They fight and in the end Needy does indeed plunge the box knife into Jennifer's chest. To which Jennifer moans, "My tit." And Needy replies, "No, your heart."

We get the back bookend of the movie here, where we return to Needy in prison. She is in solitary confinement for attacking a guard. But there is another reason for her disturbed nature. We discover a little known fact of demonology -  If a person is bitten by a demon and lives, the demon passes on a little of its power to that person. She levitates into the air and kicks open a screen window, escaping into the night. She makes her way to a highway and hitches a ride. A man pulls over and asks where she's going. She tells him east, she's following a band. End.

Well, almost. While the credits play we get little snippets of Low Shoulder at the next gig, partying back stage. Then the screen goes black, and more credits roll. Back to another snippet, etc. The band hears a knock on the door. credit. Singer tell his camera man to go away, they're about to have sex. Credit. Shot of  band member dead, ripped apart. Credit. Another shot of a dead band member - and so on, till we learn they were all violently murdered backstage. Needy got her revenge. End.


OK, first things first. I have a few major problems with this film.

  This band, Low Shoulder, is some serious wuss-rock. If this band was the one that caused me to be possessed by demons, I’d be pissed - not because I was possessed by demons, mind you, but because the ones responsible are such douches. I don’t understand why, if you’re making a movie about an evil rock band in league with Satan, you would cast such puss music instead of a band that really kicks ass. I guess this radio friendly mid-tempo crap is the type music that appeals to teens (who I think this movie is aimed at). At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with. The music is actually done by a band called No Country. Here’s hoping their stuff is better than this garbage.

   Second, Jennifer looks like she’s 30, much less a high-schooler. Megan Fox was actually 23 when she made this movie. She’s beautiful - stunningly so - but there’s no way she could pass as high school age. Even in the scenes where she’s made down - little to no makeup, frumpy clothes – she still looks older than her peers. Her co-stars in this movie, Amanda Seyfriend (Needy) and Johnny Simmons (Needy’s boyfriend Chip) are the same age as Megan, but they’re able to pull off the high school look much more effectively, mainly because they don’t look like super models. Perhaps if Megan had been cast as a teacher, or substitute, or teacher’s aide I could buy her in this role. But not as a student. And honestly, come to think of it, there’s no reason it wouldn’t have worked as well or better with her as a teacher. She could still have been good friends with Needy, perhaps a mentor of sorts, and it would have been much more believable.

Third, the dialogue in this movie is really annoying. Writer Diablo Cody tries way too hard to be cool. Rather than write good, snappy dialogue, she writes this "trying to be cool hip-speak" that gets old fast.

Here's what director Karyn Kasuma said in an interview about Cody's script. "I've seen auditions of people trying to do Diablo's dialogue and it's like falling off a cliff," she says. "It’s tough dialogue, and [Fox] just nails it. She's mean, funny, dangerous and sexy."

You know, the problem’s not that Cody's dialogue is difficult, it's that it's so damn stupid actors look ridiculous saying them.

Fourth, I wish we had gotten to see Needy exact her revenge on the band. That’s where the film was finally starting to get interesting. We had gotten past the predictable death of Jennifer and requisite Needy revenge sequence (none of which was ever in doubt), and the film was finally going off in an interesting direction. Needy escapes and goes to make the band pay for ripping her life apart. She isn’t needy any longer – she’s evolved into something else. Finally the portion of the film where we have some true female empowerment, a theme that Cody mentions time and again as the impetus behind this movie. But instead of showing it we’re cheated out of seeing the story through to its end. Come on, people! This is way better than whiny teen drama! You finally get a unique segment of the movie, heading into uncharted territory, and you blew it.

Finally, there are scenes in this film that are there for little reason other than showing off Megan's body. Scenes such as Jennifer swimming naked in a lake, or attempting to seduce Needy (the two momentarily make until Needy comes to her senses).  My wife said she found it odd I, as a man, would complain about those things. Don’t get me wrong – Megan Fox is very easy on the eyes, no complaints there! These scenes just annoy me because they are so blatantly manipulative. They have no bearing on the story at all and are there merely for titillation. Take them out and they don’t affect the story at all.

Jennifer’s Body is, ultimately, a fraud. It promises rock and roll and delivers top 40 lightweight whiny pop, teases nudity and shows none, threatens a horror story and gives us teen drama, and leads up to an ending it doesn’t deliver. It is a fluff film aimed at teens - twilight with demons. My boyfriend is a vampire. My girlfriend is demon possessed. “Oh my god – the high school dance is coming up. It’ll be like an all you can eat buffet.” Sigh.

You know, When it comes to rating movies I’m a little harder on big budget Hollywood pictures than little independent films. They have the budget to do it right, so there are no excuses. Jennifer’s Body isn’t a terrible movie – in fact it is very well made, sharply directed, the effects are good for the most part, and it looks great. But then it had a budget of 16 million dollars, so it’s SUPPOSED to look good. Still doesn’t excuse terrible music throughout and a story that falls short. I think Diablo Cody is a good writer, but until she stops being so gimmiky, sets aside personal agendas, and puts the story first we'll never see just what she's capable of. Until then, more fluff like this is on the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. Well, you just confirmed my impressions on this one! Great write-up.