Comedy Horror is never easy and this summers Zombieland has set the bar pretty high. Although (to continue the crap analogy) Jennifer’s Body doesn’t clear the bar it gives it a bloody good try and very nearly makes it. Following the success of Juno, Diablo Cody is the star name outshining the director and the stars of the movie. Whatever she had done to follow Juno would disappoint many people, and would be criticised by others. Firstly, she should be credited for such an amazing début not criticised for a weaker follow-up, secondly, Jenifer’s Body is actually a prety good film with more to praise than criticise.
Its always difficult to describe a film without giving too much away, but when the trailer has already given so much away I am relatively safe in this instance. In fact there are key quotes in trailer that succeed in giving a lot of the plot away but then don’t appear in the finished film. Jenifer (Megan Fox) is a cheerleader, in other words high school royalty. As with all poplar people at school she needs a best friend who is less attractive and less popular in this film the role is filled by Needy (Amanda Seyfried) who incidentally is the best thing in the movie. During an incident that I won’t describe Jenifer is possessed by a demon, as a result of which she needs to kill and devour people in order to retain her looks and strength. Before long Needy realises what is going on and is compelled to take steps to stop her friend. The most telling thing about the transformation is how long it takes for Needy to notice and that no one else ever sees any difference.
I said above the film doesn’t completely work. Where the film suffers is that it doesn’t know where to place itself between horror and comedy. It fails to match Drag me to Hell for scares and Zombieland for laughs, it would have been that little bit better if it had the confidence to choose a side. For me Karyn Kusama was a director with something to prove, she appeared almost from nowhere nine years ago to direct the brilliant Girlfight then after a five year absence came up with the appalling Æeon Flux (based on a great animated series). With Jenifer’s body she has certainly restored her reputation and has also given us a glimmer that she has even more to offer.
The marketing is all about Megan Fox, she is so perfectly cast that it could have been written for her, whether it was or not she is unlikely to ever find a better part. Playing on the preconceptions of her looks, personality and reputation who else could have played the part? She is clearly having fun and actually puts a strong performance in. I have heard criticism of her for being too old to play a teenager. At 23 she is 11 years younger that Stockard Channing was is Grease (playing a 17/18 year old) so I think we can let that one go. I have already mentioned that Amanda Seyfried is the best thing in the film, even behind the props of the character she is too attractive and talented to play the dweeby friend. I read this as the character being a satirical look at teen movies. Two things that become clear, Jenifer needs Needy more that Needy actually needs Jenifer and untimatly Jenifer is the real victim of the film. The other performance of note came from Adam Brody as the lead singer of the band. Brody had a great part in Mr & Mrs Smith but failed to build on it and is probably still best known for his part in the TV show The O.C. This could be his chance to expand his appeal.
The film actually spends little time in school but it still works as a satire of high school movies like Mean Girls. As teen comedy horror its ultimate target should really be The Lost Boys, again it isn’t that good but does have a similar appeal. The film actually offers a few surprises, it is very well shot and extremely well constructed, I’m not sure if this is to the credit of the script or the editing, either way it really works and the film moves along nicely. Other surprises are found within the story, plot and snappy dialogue; the most notable of these is a teenage sex scene that is actually tender sweet and realistic as well as being funny at times.
Diablo Cody is well versed in horror movies, The Wizard of Gore – Suspiria discussion in Juno demonstrates that, that’s why I leave this film with a twinge of disappointment, I would love to see what she could do if she set her mind to an outright horror movie. Having said that, despite its faults the film is light-years ahead of the “torture porn” and remakes that the horror genre has presented us with in recent years. Maybe she is saving her best ideas for her inevitable directorial debut?