THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
One horror flick that seemed to catch an unmitigated cavalcade of hate upon release – and even through preproduction – was JENNIFER’S BODY – Karyn Kusama’s demonically-charged high-school coming of age tale. Well, I’m here to stand firm on the belief that the movie is not only undeserving of all that crass body shaming, but it’s actually far better and more underrated than initially received. A great film? No. But a movie that utterly failed to live up to the expectations of its venerated pedigree, and therefore is mischaracterized as loathsome failure rather than seen soberly for what it is: a rather sexy, bloody, hyper-violent and ever-entertaining R-rated horror joint you can tell has an affinity for the genre. Enough of the hate yo, here’s why, eight years after its release, JENNIFER’S BODY should be unmistakably considered as a F*ckin’ Black Sheep!
Let’s start with insurmountable hill JENNIFER’S BODY succumbed to, and the hate it drew as a result. Remember, the movie was penned by Diablo Cody, who won an Academy Award for writing JUNO just a year prior. Naturally, expectations were unfairly skyrocketed. Particularly when considering how much genuine horror fandom was expressed in JUNO itself, what with the whole WIZARD OF GORE and SUSPIRIA sub-thread. Hearing that dialogue and seeing those corresponding images gave one the distinct impression that Cody was not only a real horror head, but ready to stamp her own brand on the genre. But there’s more. JUNO became an increasingly annoying nuisance throughout its Oscar campaign – too quaint, too precious, too hipster – and when the former stripper-cum-Oscar winning scribe collected the golden statuette, the hate unmasked.
Similar for the Megan Fox phenomenon. By 2009, now two TRANSFORMER flicks deep, the jury was already out on what Fox was capable of. That is, looking sexy and little else. Her acting skill, or lack thereof, had been brutally dismissed if not outright lambasted, and with each passing failure of a movie, the loathing only grew. Straight up, Megan Fox had a gaggle of haters going into JENNIFER’S BODY, which made folks dismiss it before it was even made, much less released.
One other reason we think needs mentioning is what a gargantuan shadow DRAG ME TO HELL cast on JENNIFER’S BODY. Remember, Sam Raimi returned to the horror genre to absolutely universal acclaim, doing so just three months prior to JENNIFER’S BODY taking over the cinemas. This can’t be understated. Raimi struck a chord in horror heads so starkly, so joyously, so successfully that DRAG ME TO HELL was bound to eclipse ANY rivaling horror flick opening wide that year. Consider too all the EVIL DEAD references in JENNIFER’S BODY (posters on the wall) and you can see where the deference lies!
But let’s move on to the good. Because, honestly, there’s a quite a bit of it that such hatred left people blind to see. It starts with how brutally violent the film is, clearly warranting its hard R-rating. Consider the context. Made at the apogee of TWILIGHT popularity – in 2009 – when emo-glittery, guy-liner vampires ruled the day, here comes the perfect and much needed antidote in JENNIFER’S BODY to suppress the escalating tween-fever. Not just in terms of the wit and sass displayed by its characters – ones who, while certainly hipster-ish, at least feel real and more multidimensional – but also in terms of the sheer violence. When Jennifer eventually morphs into a man-eating demon – itself a sort of allegory for sexual awakening – her fangs pack far more of a venomous bite than that of her pansy-ass TWILIGHT counterparts. Given the time period it was made in, JENNIFER’S BODY is a giant breath of fresh air.
And hey, let’s not undersell the sex appeal. Not sure what she’s up to now, but Megan Fox was pretty much at the height of her sexual attraction when she made this film, an aspect the story was clearly built around. Same goes for the ostensibly frumpy Amanda Seyfried as Needy, who, once stripping the granny frames a fuzzy cardigan reveals that she indeed has the sexiest eyes in all of the film biz. When the two eventually lock on to each other in the infamous and much ballyhooed lesbian make-out scene, color me crass if you want, but it did not disappoint. Their onscreen chemistry can’t be denied. More than that though, it’s the sincere message of friendship and loyalty the movie ultimately boasts in the end that gives it a heartbeat most flicks of this ilk try to achieve but often fail to do so.
The Overall Dee-cision: JENNIFER’S BODY is a genuinely sexy and violent R-rated horror flick that unfairly suffers from a bad reputation. We’ve posited the reasons for this have less to do with the movie itself and more with the pedigree of the people involved. Diablo Cody couldn’t possibly live up to her Oscar winning first script, while Megan Fox magnetized far more hate than love in 2009. Here’s hoping that in her new segment of female horror anthology XX, director Karyn Kusama further proves she’s an underrated talent!