Spoilers might hover above you.
First of all, I was another of those moviegoers who saw the marketing for this film and skipped it. There’s been a little bit of a resurgence of this project as the studio infamously tried to promote it purely on Megan Fox’s sex appeal fresh off the Transformers (2007) feature. It also followed Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning screenplay for Juno (2007). However, as all films reviewed, it should stand on its own so I’m going to ignore comparisons to those. To give it a fair share, I’m also going to ignore its marketing because, as it has been pointed out multiple times by reviewers, it does not fit the film. Fortunately for me, I don’t have an original bad impression to get over.
Jennifer’s Body (2009) was directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Diablo Cody. In the small town of Devil’s Kettle, timid and shy Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) and popular cheerleader Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) have an unlikely friendship. Needy, as she’s referred to by everyone, is always there for Jennifer, in a toxic dynamic where Jennifer gets her way every time with little or no consideration for her supposedly best friend. Playing the third wheel is Chip (Johnny Sims) who gets push aside whenever Needy must be on her bff’s beck and call.
When Jennifer drags Needy to a tavern to see up and coming band “Low Shoulder” because she wants to hit on the lead singer Nikolai (Adam Brody), Needy doesn’t need much encouragement to cancel her plans. Unfortunately the band has more sinister plans, and after a fire breaks out, Jennifer is too eager to leave with them in their van despite Needy’s protests. The next time Needy sees her friend, Jennifer has turned into a flesh-eating succubus out to devour victims to keep herself looking good.
This is a horror comedy about the parasitic and toxic relationship of two girls where the power dynamic is definitely in favour of Jennifer and her social status as the hot girl in school. When Jennifer turns demonic, there’s also a subtle change in Needy as well as she takes on the duty of stopping Jennifer’s rampage. Jennifer is mostly framed as having the upper hand, with Needy desperately clinging to old memories of her friend. We know in the end it will be them both at each other’s throats.
Putting aside all the bad history, unfortunately this movie has to deal with a very overpopulated genre: high school comedies. It does so with mostly positive outcomes thanks to subverting a lot of major tropes, starting with the point of view switching to the female perspective both for the villainess and the heroine. Technically Jennifer is just an exaggerated extrapolation of her original status: a girl consumed by her own image who will do anything to keep it. On the other hand, Needy has to rise up from her dormant status as the friend in the background to literally save the world from Jennifer. Needy seems to have to endure a much harsher transformation just so she can confront her succubus frenemy.
The cinematography is often brilliant, the performances are adequate and Megan Fox shines in her role as Jennifer. The love-hate relationship between the main characters also plays the angle of mutual attraction, but that kissing scene does feel a little exploitative and catering to the male gaze. There are also moments in which I felt the dialogue goes a little too teenage-cringe with two grown women. I know Fox and Seyfried where on their twenties at the time the movie was released, but they do feel too old for the kind of insults they spit at each other. That being said, the dialogue does have some shining moments as well. Unfortunately, once the premise has been established the corpses start to pile up, I couldn’t help but find myself waiting for the ending. It does seem to drag out the ending for a bit.
Recommended with reservations. It’s been given an unfair take, but it’s also another film inhabiting the high school genre and horror-wise I wish it had both more of a build-up and less of an overdrawn finale. Fox plays an evil succubus with a insecure self image complex exactly like the most popular girl in high school, and her performance is commendable. On the other hand, Seyfried being the mousey girl is a pill hard to swallow, and I wanted to see more aspects of her transformation. The film does have great moments as well as a few frustrating ones, but it’s worth a revisit if you’ve never given it a fair share. Worth at least a watch.
That will do for now.