Jennifer’s Body has been taking a beating. Megan Fox is a dumber Angelina Jolie without the acting talent. Diablo Cody is a hack. Karyn Kusama is… who, exactly? Well, while I wouldn’t make the argument that Jennifer’s Body is a great movie, I will make the argument that it is a surprisingly good movie for what it is: Mean Girls mixed with Halloween, sprinkled with a dusting of Exorcist.
Jennifer (Megan Fox) is the alpha female of her high school. She’s beautiful and a cheerleader, which makes her just about perfect. Except, of course, for the fact that she’s kind of pushy, shallow, and manipulative, but whatever. She’s gorgeous, and everyone knows it, especially Jennifer’s best friend/sidekick Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Needy’s the semi-cute smart girl, which you can tell because she’s got glasses and a slightly goofy boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).
The dynamic between the two, despite being BFFs forever!, is obvious from the very beginning. Even when Jennifer starts behaving a little… strangely… and boys in the town start disappearing. It seems like something might be wrong with Jennifer’s Body. (I see what you did there, Diablo.)
Diablo Cody seems to be getting some serious backlash here after her success with Juno. Yes, she’s still the same person who mines her own past for her female teenage heroines. Yes, she’s still madly in love with her own dialog, which makes Kevin Smith’s films seem terse and naturalistic at times. However, despite all that, she does manage to occasionally capture some realistic teenage-sounding witticisms when she’s not trying too hard.
The story here is solid, if unspectacular, and the instances of satire fit. There are some particularly funny scenes interspersed throughout the movie, and there’s a pretty keen sense of satire throughout. I’m not a fan of the framework story or the laziness of the voiceovers. Even if the movie doesn’t end at the right time, tacking on another five minutes at the end due to a second unnecessary ending, there’s enough good within the film to make up for the stylistic foibles of the Oscar-winning Cody.
The more effective element of this whole production is the direction of Karyn Kusama. She seems to have taken to heart the lessons of John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween when it comes to shooting suburbia. Make it dark, light up one or two windows at best, and use a lot of static shots of characters in front of ominous buildings. The framing, especially of dark suburbs at night, is pretty impressive. She doesn’t move the camera through the scenes, she sets the scenes in front of the camera, shoots them, and moves on. It’s a pleasantly, deliberately old-school way of doing things.
The use of the steady camera work helps to ground the movie when the characters start to get a little too flighty with their witty lines. There’s no overdose of visual trickery, so when scenes are supposed to be attention-grabbing, they work. After the visual excess of Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, it’s nice to see a straight, uncomplicated horror film. A lack of crazy camera tricks makes the special effects sequences much more effective, aside from one dodgy bit of CGI that can be forgiven and is quickly forgotten.
There’s not much that can be said about Megan Fox’s performance in her first big role. She doesn’t have much to do aside from vamp around, be sexy, and not stumble over her lines. Mission accomplished! I’m not a Fox fan, but I’ve got nothing bad to say about her performance here. It’s competent and it could have been a whole lot worse (and to be fair, she does some good things with her eyes).
The real standout is Amanda Seyfried, who does not disappoint as the plucky, blonde final girl. Those familiar with her work on the HBO series Big Love or the cult classic Veronica Mars already know she’s a legitimate talent as far as acting goes, but she really works hard here to make the most of her first lead role. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is Amanda Seyfried’s movie more so than Megan Fox’s. Megan is the face on the posters, but Seyfried is the star. It’s just a shame more people won’t see her in this movie.
Horror comedy is a hard genre to pull off, but Jennifer’s Body is a pretty good example of what can be done with it. The balance between funny and freaky is a tough one to find, but this movie pulls it off. It’s no Shaun Of The Dead, but it’s certainly funnier than the last couple of entries in the Scary Movie franchise.