Judge Gordon Sullivan's body liked this movie, though his spleen dissents.
Our review of Jennifer's Body, published December 23rd, 2009, is also available.
She's Even Hotter on Blu-ray!
I'm one of the few Juno agnostics out there. I saw the film after most of the hype (and requisite backlash) had blown over. I found a quirky teen comedy with a lot of heart and (like many a teenager) an awkward way of expressing itself. I was still not decided on the film's famous scribe: Diablo Cody would almost certainly live or die on the basis of her sophomore film. Judging by critical and commercial reactions to Cody's second feature, Jennifer's Body, she's in critical condition down at the cinematic ICU. Staying in the teen-oriented market but aiming for the opposite effect with a throwback-style horror film, Jennifer's Body (Blu-ray) tones down the most egregious of the Cody-isms while still showcasing her deft ear for dialogue. Although moviegoers stayed away from the film in droves, it's worth a first or second look in hi-def.
Facts of the Case
Jennifer (Megan Fox, Transformers) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried, Veronica Mars) have been friends for years, despite the fact that Jennifer is a popular babe and Needy is a more awkward outcast. A band with a particularly attractive lead singer comes to their tiny town of Devil's Kettle, and Jennifer convinces Amanda to go. After the first song ends in a fire, the band whisks Jennifer away in their creepy van. Amanda fears rape, and her nightmare seems to be confirmed when Jennifer shows up at her house later that night looking beat-up and talking crazy. After vomiting a vile black substance all over Needy's kitchen floor, Jennifer leaves and the next day acts like nothing happened. Then boys start disappearing from school, and something seems to have taken Jennifer over.
What kind of cinematic world are we living in when a film that features attractive lead characters in a heavily-implied suppressed lesbian relationship featuring gore, violence, and demons can barely surpass its budget in domestic box office? I guess backlash is a bitch, and there were two big pills that cinemagoers just didn't seem willing to swallow: Diablo Cody and Megan Fox. Thanks to Juno and Transformers (and who ever though those two would be together in a serious sentence), the two ladies are a mixed bag at best and box-office poison at worst. I admit a little trepidation before watching Jennifer's Body. Nothing in Juno hinted at horror chops. Megan Fox wasn't bad in the Transformers films, but she didn't have much to do either. I was therefore mildly surprised when the film managed to overcome my doubts, revealing an entertaining and engaging little horror film.
First, Diablo Cody has crafted a screenplay that plays just enough with genre conventions to be interesting. We have damsels, we have demons, we have distress. Having a female protagonist and a female "villain" twists some of the usual romantic conventions, and there's just enough gore and tension to make the premise believable. Also, for the most part, the quirky dialogue has been left on the cutting room floor. There are a few bits here and there, like jealous being "jello," but for the most part they work. Taking out the witticisms leaves Cody room to craft tight, effective dialogue that clearly moves the plot and draws the characters.
The other reason that Cody comes off better in this film is that her actors do a better job of making even the more outlandish lines seem believable. My biggest complaint with Juno was that everyone sounds like they're speaking dialogue rather than having a conversation. In Jennifer's Body, Megan Fox and (especially) Amanda Seyfried do an amazing job of making compliments like "salty" or referring to the creepy van as an "'89 Rapist" seem natural. These aren't award-winning performances, but they're a cut above many in the genre, and they make Cody's dialogue better with their performances.
Despite the film's lackluster theatrical performance, Fox has still seen fit to give the film a solid hi-def release. For the most part, the film is a dark, muted affair, and this video transfer captures that well with solid blacks and strong detail. The audio mix is equally impressive with a clear surround mix that keeps the dialogue audible with some atmospheric sounds for the rear channels.
The big extra is the inclusion of the Unrated cut of the film. Although the differences aren't spectacular, I prefer it to the theatrical version. There's a commentary from director Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody on the theatrical cut that offers an informal overview of the film's production and themes. Then there's a commentary by Kusama on the Unrated cut that skips around, covering those changes she made from the theatrical version. The disc also includes deleted scenes with extra bits by Lance Henricksen and Amy Sedaris and a gag reel. Then, there are the featurettes. We get one on the making of the film, a set of video diaries, a short bit featuring shots of Megan Fox looking "hot," and an interview with Diablo Cody about making it in Hollywood. There's also a mini-PSA about peer pressure featuring Megan Fox and a digital copy of the film on the second disc for portable players.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer's Body, especially in light of all the negative stuff I heard about it. However, I don't think it's the greatest film or is going to save horror or anything. There are definitely some pacing problems that still plague the film, where it seems like Kusama is pausing to play out some atmosphere, but instead just slows down the film a bit too much. Also, although Cody toned things down, the dialogue and action are still definitely stylized and may be an acquired taste for some.
Jennifer's Body is worth a look for anyone who misses those rousing horror films from the '80s that thrived on a slightly twisted premise, and for those who are following Diablo Cody over from Juno-land (assuming you can stand the sight of blood). Diehard haters and those who need a bit of Saw in their horror films should probably give this one a miss. In either case Jennifer's Body has been given a solid treatment in hi-def with an excellent audiovisual presentation and enough informative extras to please fans.
This decision might leave some people jello, but Jennifer's Body is not guilty.
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