Jennifer's Body

OMG demons can be like total frenemies
★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
2009
Director: 
Karyn Kusama
Starring: 
Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody
The Setup: 
One of two best friends gets turned into a demon.
Discussion: 

Oh dear. I had no interest whatsoever in seeing this, but a friend of mine said I would like it as a bad movie, her comment being a roll of the eyes and "Oh my God, the DIALOGUE!" So onto my list it went. This movie should really be titled "Diablo Cody tries to do something else," because this is where the screenwriter who gave us Juno tries to extend her career, parlaying what we liked about her into something the tiniest bit different, and in retrospect it has enough strengths to make one regret the overall mish-mash. Of course, we also won't ever really know what went wrong, although I think I can detect the exact moment when the focus-group mandated alternate ending begins. Ultimately this movie aspires to be a really good episode of Buffy, although I'm not sure Cody realized that what she needed to do to write this script was to watch the entire series of Buffy once and Seasons 2-4 three times, as well as perhaps become best friends with Marti Noxon and Jane Espenson. Anyway, this is what we've got, so let's go with it.

We open with Amanda Seyfried as Needy in a mental institution. How's that for a programmatic name: NEEDY. I think it was also a mistake to show her in a mental institution, because now we know how the movie ends. Things get wacky fast as we see that Needy wears big bunny slippers in the mental institution and tells us, in her snarky, slang-filled voiceover that she "has her fans," whereupon we see a bunch of fan mail and little presents sent to her. We also find out that this town, named "Devil's Kettle," has a waterfall with a CGI whirlpool at the bottom, which scientists haven't been able to find a bottom to. Perhaps because it goes straight down--to HELL.

So Needy is one of those heart-stoppingly gorgeous, über-fashionable young women without an ounce of body fat and perfectly coiffed coils of blonde hair that wears glasses and is therefore a "total dork." She and the super-hot Jennifer, played by Megan Fox, have been best friends since childhood, which is all we get to explain why they are still so close. Although this school only has main characters and extras, no one in between, so there doesn't seem to be any social circles for either of them to run with. The two women are going to the show of this band Low Shoulder, and we have a bit of content about how Jennifer subtly dictates that Needy wear something attractive, but not more attractive than her.

They get there, and Jennifer comes onto the band. Needy then hears the lead singer saying that Jennifer is probably a virgin, so they should try to nail her. The band, by the way, is supposedly an emo band, which is supposed to be funny. They look to my like they're wanting to be Maroon 5, which strikes me more as an American Express commercial band, but whatever. Anyway, the band is playing when, out of nowhere, the place starts on fire. Needy and Jennifer get out, then the band encourages then to get in their van. Needy advises against it, but Jennifer hops right in with a snide comment back at Needy, about how she's such a downer. Keep this in mind, because later we'll come back to this moment, only then it'll be characterized that Jennifer TOTALLY didn't want to be there and was SO coerced into it!

But first, we have a line of voiceover where Needy says she just knew the lead singer was up to no good because "he was skinny and twisted and evil like this petrified tree I saw when I was a kid." This is then accompanied by footage of a little girl looking at a tree. I have to say that the experience of watching this movie was not as bad as it sounds when described! It goes down a little more smoothly. Anyway, Needy goes home and we have generic spooky moments where we know something is in the house, then Jennifer shows up all bloody and catatonic. She pukes this black scum all over the floor, which then ripples in a creepy way. Then she's gone.

The next day we introduce this big jock long enough for Jennifer to lure him into the woods and kill him. Then Amy Sedaris shows up out of the blue as Needy's mom, who delivers the line "'Cause I'm a badass Ford-tough mama bear," then vanishes from the movie again. We also hear from Chip, Needy's totally adorable boyfriend, who says that the mom of the victim was "like a zombie mannequin robot psycho." So Diablo Cody-isms are flying thick and fast, and unfortunately in this case don't flow naturally, as they somehow did in Juno, but are forced of out the characters' mouths without sounding natural. Not to mention that there were several lines I just couldn't understand. Not to mention that the movie does that thing where characters are whispering or mumbling, then suddenly blaring guitars come on, causing one to keep one's volume button in hand the whole time.

SPOILERS > > >
So a month passes, and Jennifer starts to look bad (for Jennifer, we are later told), and we know that she needs to eat someone else. We have a long sequence in which Jennifer is out killing the local goth boy, while Chip and Needy are having a very sweet, happy lovemaking scene. It's too bad it has to come in the middle of this movie, because it's unusual to see a teen lovemaking scene that is this sweet, and in which both participants seem to be willing and having a good time. When they find out the goth kid was killed, Needy knows at once that it was Jennifer.

Soon Jennifer comes over to Needy's house, and we soon have the lesbian make-out scene we knew was inevitable. It's funny that the movie would try to play this general girl-power vibe and then still have to include this lesbian kiss to titillate the boys, but I suppose it's an EMPOWERING lesbian make-out session. Anyway, Jennifer tells Needy what happened, and here's where we flash back to Jennifer getting in the van with the rock band, only now she's worried and feeling vulnerable and the impression is that she was totally lured in there by evil men. So what we saw earlier--her getting confidently and happily in the van, with a snarky comment back to Needy apt how she's so square--is now completely contradicted and now it's all MEN'S FAULT. Evil men! Look, I know a woman has a right to change her mind, but this is more of a complete contradiction, and it's disappointing that the movie just takes the easy route of trying to boost up women by denigrating men. All they had to do was have Jennifer be reluctant from the start, and the whole girl-power vibe (one could barely qualify it as feminist) that the rest of the movie is going to trade in would make sense. Anyway, the now completely-unwilling Jennifer is taken to the waterfall with the mysterious whirlpool, as we knew she would be, when the guys ritually sacrifice her in order to gain success. The band thinks Jennifer is a virgin, but she's not, and Needy soon reads in a book that when this ritual is done but the girl isn't a virgin, a demon can still enter her, or something. I wouldn't ask for too much adherence to logic here.

Anyway, now there's a big dance coming up, and the movie teases us with the promise of a Carrie-like slaughter of all the boys at the dance. By the way, I think the movie is trying to develop this whole idea that the boys previously "devoured" Jennifer based on her looks, and now she is turning the tables by eating them, but it's a complete failure. Anyway, Needy begs Chip not to go, but he does, and they essentially break up. On his way there, he is accosted by Jennifer, who takes him to the Old Abandoned Swimming Pool. So no dance slaughter, guys. Sorry. Needy arrives just in time to see Chip dying, there is a big fight, and now we have some dialogue that Needy and Jennifer were total frenemies, with Jennifer keeping Needy around to make herself look better, and Needy saying she's just insecure because she's no longer "socially-relevant" (what? Like the economic crisis?) and that she takes laxatives to stay thin. Okay wait, now this movie is critical of women who are too worried about their appearance? Wouldn't that be in the category of the terrible demands a male-dominated society places upon young women? Unfortunately this movie wants to be saying something, but is just such a mess it can't end up saying anything. Nevertheless, we are supposed to think that Needy is finding her voice and her strength in breaking away from this lopsided friendship.

Now here's where I'm guessing the re-shot ending begins, but who knows, the Old Abandoned Swimming Pool was so out of nowhere that seemed like it might be a replacement ending as well. Jennifer is just laying on her bed at home when Needy suddenly smashes in through the window, they struggle and have banter, then Needy kills Jennifer, who can be killed by a stab through the heart, or whatever. By now anything might happen. Jennifer's mother, who hasn't been seen the entire movie, suddenly walks in and sees Needy there, having killed her daughter. Then we're back with Needy in the mental institution, where she informs us that since she got bitten, but survived, she now has demon powers, but is still apparently a good person. She easily escapes (why she hung around that long is anyone's guess), finds the ceremonial knife that killed Jennifer, is picked up by Lance Heinrickson doing a cameo, and as the credits play, finds the band and kills them. The end.
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Wow, what a total mess. But it's not that unpleasant to actually watch, in fact it's kind of fun, which is what makes it a shame that it's such a mess, because if Cody had only watched her Buffy she could have crafted this into something interesting. And if they hadn't given it to director Karyn Kusama, who had previously demonstrated her complete incompetence with Aeon Flux. The reason it almost makes it despite itself is the fun duo at its center, and particularly Megan Fox, who is a total hoot, and takes the role of Jennifer and runs with it. She's just super-fun and a blast to watch. She has a good rapport with Seyfried, and both of them, and these characters, deserve a much better movie than this. So, another in the long list of missed opportunities, movies that could have been good, but through a series of factors ended up a complete mess.

It won't kill you to watch, and it would be a shame if Megan Fox didn't get more fun juicy roles like this, but really there's no reason to put yourself through this.

Should you watch it: 

If, after knowing it's a total mess, you still feel like it, why not?