As it turns out with a great number of my reviews, I end up reviewing movies, games, etc that I have personally picked out, purchased or rented. And as a habit I usually choose to spend my money on things I’m fairly certain I will like. Sort of like when I choose food from a menu. Having browsed the video store shelves this past weekend and discovered that the selection of previously unseen safe-bets were somewhat limited, we picked up a few movies that we would be taking a chance on. One of those risky film choices was “Jennifer’s Body” starring Megan Fox; a film that I knew wasn’t critically renowned but was considered to be somewhat endearing to others. Like a dish recommended by one friend but hated by another. So how did it taste? Read on, gentle readers, read on to find out.
Jennifer’s Body is a tale of teen horror set in a fictional small mid-Western town called Devil’s Falls. Jennifer is a beautiful and outgoing high school cheerleader though she’s somewhat self absorbed. Her lifelong best friend Anita, nicknamed “Needy”, is quite the opposite. She is reserved and demure but she she looks out for Jennifer when she can. Jennifer and Needy go out to the local tavern one night to see a struggling band from the city called Low Shoulder. In the confusing aftermath of a traumatic fire incident at the bar, Jennifer is taken for a ride in Low Shoulder’s van, leaving Needy on her own. The members of Low Shoulder had devious plans all along and sacrifices Jennifer to a demon in order to achieve success in their music career. However, somehow the sacrifice didn’t quite take as Jennifer survives and is subsequently possessed by the demon. By all appearances Jennifer returns to life perfectly normal, but she now has a hunger for human flesh which demonically manifests about once a month. Teenage boys begin disappearing in the town, and Needy must figure out what she must do stop her best friend.
Jennifer’s Body was notably written by Diablo Cody, mostly known as the writer of the critically lauded movie Juno. Teenage horror movies are not typically known for the most intricate plots and while this one isn’t all that unique, there is some charm to be found in the main characters and their dialogue. Megan Fox plays Jennifer with a fun balance of a girl from Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless with pumped up sexuality from Cruel Intentions. She’s also sufficiently creepy when she has her demon on, to boot. Amanda Seyfreid’s performance as Needy is less smooth, but she is endearing as the terrorized yet brave best friend. Needy’s boyfriend Chip, well played by Johnny Simmons, was a favorite of mine as he felt like a very real person in this kind of movie where one-dimensional characters (especially the supporting roles) are usually the norm. There’s also a fair bit of dark humor in Jennifer’s Body, which I always enjoy. Oh and JK Simmons is quite fun in a minor role as the amputee science teacher.
The main problem I had with Jennifer’s body was again, the cookie cutter plot that horror movies are always plagued with. There’s a monster that is picking off teens one at a time, someone does their research to find the answer and there’s a bloody climax that ends with the monster dead (or maybe not!). The plot of Jennifer’s Body is one part Species and two parts Buffy the Vampire Slayer with plenty of teenage angst to go around. Now while perhaps there is no real solution to this “problem”, perhaps there doesn’t need to be one. Sometimes the familiar can be fun but a few curveballs don’t hurt either. The end credit sequence was one cool thing I wasn’t expecting even if the set up was a bit contrived. And the symbolism and metaphors in the movie also feel rehashed from other movies or a ham-fisted. Yes, Jennifer’s monstrous monthly gore-fest is a metaphor for her teenage sexual maturity. Yes, she is quite literally a “man-eater”. That Anita’s nickname is “Needy” so we can be absolutely sure to know she’s the insecure one… yes, yes, I GET IT.
All that being said, Jennifer’s Body was at the very least much better than I really expected it to be. Likeable characters can get you far in what feels like familiar territory, and that’s what saves Jennifer’s Body from being a bland, tasteless dish. In contrast to another Megan Fox movie, Transformers 2 also treads familiar territory but had very unlikeable characters and that movie just left a bad taste in my mouth. I would recommend Jennifer’s Body as the definition of a good rental. Satisfying enough for a quick bite but you won’t feel the need to jot down the recipe.