Karyn Kusama’s “Jennifer’s Body” – The Devil’s in the Details

Megan Fox has something very much in common with her Transformers co-star, Shia LaBoeuf – they’re both strangely off-putting. LaBoeuf’s awkward reception can likely be attributed to being this generation’s geeky answer to Bruce Willis, but it seems to decrease as his acting prowess is steadily demonstrated. Conversely, Megan Fox has done very little to distinguish herself from any other honeypot on-screen, but from her vast array of tattoos and various attempts at being “edgy” to her public bickering with Michael Bay, she’s has done a fair amount to deserve a chilly reception off-screen.

Amid the scuffle of forced and angry celebrity, we’re presented with Jennifer’s Body, the latest outing from critically-polarizing Juno scribe Diablo Cody and Æon Flux director Karyn Kusama. Megan Fox plays Jennifer, a sultry teenage sexpot-cum-succubus who is working her way through the boys at her high school…killing and eating them in the process. Her friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) works to uncover the truth and stop any more boys from being killed – including her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons).

Diablo Cody has once again shown her talent for whimsical character names and gratingly awkward teenage dialogue. Within the first ten minutes, we are treated to the following phrases:

“You’re just jello that you can’t go. Admit it! You’re just green jello!”
“You are so lesbi-gay.”
“Cheese and Fries!” [think “Jesus Christ!”]
“It smells like Thai food in here… Have you guys been f*cking?!”

And yet, as in Juno, if you can overlook the momentary twinges of painful repartee and hipster sensibility (which frankly didn’t bother me much in that film), what shines through is a fairly smart and amusing genre-straddler. The characters, some of which are in the film for the sole purpose of being killed, are much more fleshed out than most horror films would bother with these days. We’re treated to several none-too-elaborate, but nonetheless solid performances from Johnny Simmons (Hotel for Dogs), Kyle Gallner (“Veronica Mars”), Adam Brody (“The O.C.”), and Josh Emerson (I Love You, Beth Cooper). J.K. Simmons probably should’ve stayed home; he and Amy Sedaris are largely wasted in their minor adult roles.

Then there’s Megan Fox… About all I can say about her performance in this film is that it was one-note, but effective. There isn’t much to this character, and yet I can scarcely imagine anyone else playing the part. I suppose I must concede that Fox’s performance was passable, if utterly undemanding, but in spite of what the the posters might say, the real star (and indeed, the most prominent character) of this film is Amanda Seyfried. This is an actress whose work has steadily improved since she first caught her break as the dumbest of the Mean Girls, and went on to give a very effective turn on “Veronica Mars”. In this film, her character subscribes to the usual teen cliche of “hot girl + glasses/uncombed hair = plain girl”, but Seyfried continues to bring all of her signature likeability and earnestness to the role.

-“Our library has an occult section?”
-“It’s very small.”

As Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead have demonstrated, an effective blend of horror and comedy can make for a groundbreaking and fantastic film. This film may not reach the same levels of brilliance as either of those films, but it mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do.

It plays freely with the conventions of horror, often managing to surprise the audience by playing on the typical direction and storytelling. The film doesn’t overly rely on jump scares, and establishes an effectively frightening ambiance to several scenes. There was one shot in this film in which Megan Fox looked absolutely terrifying, and the camera lingered on it just long enough to make certain that the entire audience was squirming in their seats. Nonetheless, the film’s appeal to the horror genre is unfortunately limited to just a few strokes of directorial aptitude. Once it begins to delve seriously into the rules of its world, the film throws itself firmly back into the realm of teen comedy.

I had to laugh at a scene toward the end in which Megan Fox was hoisted out of a pool by her invisible wires and harness to hang limply in the air, and the following exchange ensues:

Chip: “She can fly?!”
Needy: “She’s only hovering!”
Jennifer: “Do you have to naysay everything I do?”

What ensues is a myriad of nonsensical demonic combat and subpar wire choreography, but it’s all largely immaterial. By this point in the film, if you haven’t erupted in laughter several times, you’re probably not the target audience. This is a film that is unafraid to tackle the connection between painfully generic indie rock and the occult. A film that will gleefully present us with a scene of awkward teenage sexuality (rendered with alarming accuracy), and then cut back and forth to a boy getting brutally murdered. A film in which a scene of abduction and human sacrifice unfolds with all the subtlety of a “MadTV” sketch, but is nonetheless played for ample hilarity.

This was a fun film – just as laughable as the majority of the franchise horror films that will appear over the next few weeks, but not nearly as insulting to the audience’s intelligence.

FilmWonk rating: 7 out of 10

Or check out the red-band trailer at Shock Til You Drop (NSFW).

One thought on “Karyn Kusama’s “Jennifer’s Body” – The Devil’s in the Details

  1. the movie z nice but ts a bit confusing 1 min i think ts christian but at 1 tym ts so disturbing ……..wat was the motive of this movie?

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