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Actual Evil, Not High School Evil

September 19th, 2010 · 2 Comments

The Bechdel Test was named for Allison Bechdel, whose comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For in 1985 measured the female presence in movies by employing three criteria: Are there two or more women in it, with names? Do the women talk to each other? About something other than a man? Far too many mainstream movies flunk this test, but in the month of September, I take a look at ten movies that pass.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Directed by Karyn Kusama
Written by Diablo Cody
Produced by Mason Novick, Daniel Dubiecki, Jason Reitman
102 minutes

Jennifer’s Body is the Heathers of horror comedies, which could be a checkered flag or a red one depending on how many grade levels you’ve completed. Screenwriter Diablo Cody began working on the script in the summer of 2006 as her first screen credit Juno was being directed by Jason Reitman. Obsessed with ‘80s horror movies like The Lost Boys, Cody wanted to write a genre film in her voice with female characters. 20th Century Fox took Cody’s script off the market via their short lived genre label Fox Atomic, with Cody’s manager Mason Novick producing with Daniel Dubiecki & Jason Reitman. To direct, Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux) was hired. Financed by Fox in association with private equity partner Dune Entertainment at roughly $16 million, shooting commenced March 2008 in and around North Shore Studios in Vancouver.

As devoted as Diablo Cody may be to horror movies, Jennifer’s Body resembles Heathers more than anything else, laced with acidic wit pointed at high school and the hypocrisies of a community coping with tragedy. Energy is siphoned to poke fun at indie bands as well. While most mainstream horror movies these days are remakes starved for one good idea, Cody crams enough ideas for two or three movies into this one. The problem is none of the threads tie together, while Karyn Kusama isn’t up for the job of pulling together a dark comedy. Even Cody’s pop culture powdered dialogue reaches the point where you can see the tampon joke coming before the characters do. In one word, Jennifer’s Body is lame. Amy Sedaris is criminally underused as Amanda Seyfried’s mom, while Megan Fox — who may never appear in a movie with this much prestige again — is criminally miscast as a girl who speaks.

“Hell is a teenage girl,” reveals Anita “Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried) from behind the walls of a mental institution. Needy reacts to a comment about Toastems by kicking the tooth out of an orderly’s mouth. Thrown in solitary confinement, she begins her story. In the town of Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota, the geeky Needy has remained loyal BFF to Jennifer Check (Megan Fox), the femme fatale of the flag corps, since they played in the same sandbox as girls. Jennifer pressures Needy to drop plans with her percussionist boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) and to go see an indie band called Low Shoulder perform at a local bar. The band’s pretty boy lead singer Nikolai Wolf (Adam Brody) sizes Jennifer up as the virgin they’ve been looking for and when the bar burns down in a blaze, makes off with a disoriented Jennifer in his van.

Needy is worried sick about her friend until Jennifer shows up at her house late that night, covered in blood and vomiting an evil black pool onto the kitchen floor. Arriving for the biology class of Mr. Wroblewski (J.K. Simmons) the next day looking fine, Jennifer acts as if Needy imagined the whole thing. Low Shoulder rockets to fame as a result of the fire and their song “Through the Trees” becomes the town anthem as people work to overcome the tragedy. Meanwhile, Jennifer begins luring horny boys to their death, turning into a demon and devouring their innards. She confides to Needy that the night of the fire, Low Shoulder sacrificed her to Satan, who apparently rejected the offering as far from virgin material and endowed Jennifer with the powers of a succubus. Needing to eat in order to stay beautiful, Jennifer sets her sights on Needy’s boyfriend Chip.

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 129,517 users: 38% for Jennifer’s Body

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: 47 for Jennifer’s Body

What do you say?

Tags: Beasts and monsters · Coming of age · Dreams and visions · Drunk scene · Femme fatale · High school · Mother/daughter relationship · No opening credits · Psycho killer · Small town · Supernatural · Woman in jeopardy

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve W // Sep 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Too bad–I like Amanda Seyfried a lot. Of course the “high school as hell” idea is a stale one, dating all the way back to “Carrie” and pretty much mined of all its potential by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The “Heathers” comparison sounds apt, since I found that movie to be emptily hip and not as clever as it thought it was too.

  • 2 Joe Valdez // Sep 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Steve: Amanda Seyfried acquits herself nicely in Jennifer’s Body, handling the goofier aspects of her role well. She has a bright future. But I’ve never been a fan of Heathers either. I’m just not into joke type movies. Diablo Cody the joke machine plowed the heart and soul right out of this movie. Thanks for commenting!

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