combined with wordplay both juvenile and sophisticated?
We must be back in Diablo Codyland, a place still as fresh
and fun as Kevin Smithburg was almost twenty years ago.
It's a nice town to visit, overpopulated with snarky teens
that still feel real and basically decent, except for that
one that's been possessed by a demon and periodically has
to feed on human flesh and blood.
Yes, we finally
have the much-hyped follow-up to Juno, Jennifer's
Body, directed by Karyn Kusama and starring (sort of)
Megan Fox. With this script, Cody proves she's not a one-hit
wonder, and more impressively, she can stride across genres.
As much about
the real horrors of high school and girl friendships as
it is about gore, Jennifer's Body turns out to be
a real surprise - a smart horror film in which nobody acts
particularly stupid, just believably hormonal. And if you've
been to a high school lately, that can be scary enough.
The film focuses
on a deadly friendship. Anita "Needy" Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried)
has been the proverbial BFF of Jennifer Check (Fox) since
they were small children in the sandbox. Growing up in a
small town, their opportunities may have been few, except
- she is, after all, played by Megan Fox - Jennifer has
worked her way through the dating pool and then some. So
when an indie band comes to play a club outside of town,
Jennifer studies their MySpace page to become a groupie.
One tiny thing they left off of their basic info, though,
was their willingness to sacrifice anything for fame - in
particular a small-town virgin in order to gain the blessings
of a demon.
of the sacrifice are blurred for a while, but how it happens
plays out with a gruesome humor and a dead-on accurate shot
at how people willingly fool themselves. Led by heavily
eye-lined singer Nikolai Wolf (a really funny and disturbing
Adam Brody), the band Low Shoulder becomes a national sensation
and unlikely unknowing spiritual leaders to the teens of
In the wake
of the band's botched sacrifice, Jennifer turns into something
akin to a succubus, instilling boys with lust and fear before
eviscerating them. If she hasn't fed in a while, she turns
ugly. Well, "…ugly for her," as Needy tries to explain to
her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).
Of course, a
weakened Jennifer is still ridiculously attractive, and
that's part of the joke of the movie and the pain of high
school life. The cheerleader never really gets exposed
as being as insecure as everyone else. Even at her lowest,
she still seems perfect to those who consider themselves
The barbs and
observations stay sharp throughout, though maybe not as
sharp as the performances from Seyfried and, yes, Fox. It
may not be a stretch to just go ahead and play as shallow
and venal as half the country thinks you are anyway, but
it's a rare actress willing to embrace it so fully so soon
in her career. It's a funny and scary performance, in which
Fox manages to show a lot of the monster without benefit
of any special effects.
That's a tribute
to Kusama's skill as a director. It could be easy to let
Cody's dialogue overwhelm the movie, but Kusama keeps a
firm hand as a storyteller. Despite snappy dialogue, the
movie has long stretches of doing what a horror show should
do - build tension through silence, and letting a picture
speak a thousand words.
To some extent,
that includes letting some great character actors bob throughout
the movie. J.K. Simmons shows up as apparently the only
teacher on campus, wearing wispy curls and a hook for a
hand. When did Diablo Cody meet my junior high band teacher?
The great Amy Sedaris slides through a few scenes as Needy's
mom, well-meaning but too busy just trying to earn a living
to pay much attention to what's going on in her daughter's
enjoyability, Jennifer's Body isn't quite a perfect
movie. It does have a tendency to use unlikely small-town
geography almost as a deus ex machina. Whatever landscape
the characters need to have for a scene seems too convenient
to be true. Ultimately, that includes the mystery of the
town's namesake, the Devil's Kettle, itself. But the sense
of having to get all your needs from a Super Target because
that's all there is, that rings awfully true.
Body ends up being sexy and scary, a nice little treat
before we roll into October, and I suspect a staple of slumber
party DVD viewings for years to come.