Sunday, October 23, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 22: Jennifer's Body

Whether or not you'll enjoy a film depends largely on your mood. If you're not in the humour for a comedy, you'll likely find them silly if you're made to sit through one.If you're really not in the form for a horror then you might struggle to see the highlights in such a film if it's forced on you. Knowing this, unless you're absolutely sure a film is crap, it might actually be worth giving a movie you weren't in the mood for another go if the opportunity should arise.

Jennifer’s Body (2009) is set in the wonderfully named town of Devil’s Kettle somewhere slightly off the mainstream in America. Two girls, Jennifer and her friend Anita, AKA: “Needy”, attend high school there and are BFF’s (which = Best Friends Forever! Just in case you’re not keeping up with all the hip young talk like I am) and have been friends since they were tiny tots, which goes some way to explain why Jennifer, who’s kind of a cheerleader and good looking, is such good friends with a girl who would normally reside at the other end of the social spectrum. Life in Devil’s Kettle is perfectly ordinary with the girls and the boys associated with them doing all the usual things, including visiting bars while still too young to legally drink in order to see a band, as Jennifer and Needy do one night.

The band in question, “Low Shoulder”, are visiting from the city to play a gig in a dive bar because they think it’s necessary to connect with fans  everywhere, even the shitty places. Jennifer is smitten with the lead singer while Needy is unimpressed with the lot of them (and she has a boyfriend) and her opinion of them drops further when she overhears them discussing whether or not Jennifer is a virgin. Needy confronts the band and tells them that yes, Jennifer is a virgin and they should leave her alone. In fact, Jennifer is not completely unversed in the way of the boudoir; in fact it’s not unfair to say she’s a bit of a slut.

As the gig gets underway, the bands equipment causes a small fire to break out which quickly turns to a raging inferno that burns down the bar and kills a few people. Jennifer and Needy escape, thanks to Needy’s quick thinking and outside they meet the band who also escaped unharmed. Spotting his chance, the lead singer convinces Jennifer, who appears to be in shock, to go with the band in their van. Needy stays where she is and pleads with Jennifer not to go, but to no avail.

Later that night, Jennifer turns up at Needy’s house in a bit of state and looks for all the world like a girl who’d been attacked. Needy thinks the band is responsible until Jennifer starts acting very strangely, throwing up some sort of evil material over the floor, eating a whole chicken, and attacking Needy before leaving. The next time the girls meet is in school where everyone is shaken up by the deaths at the bar. Everyone except Jennifer who’s acting like a right bitch and treats Needy very badly. Needy slowly realises that there’s something very wrong with Jennifer, and that she’s not the same girl who got into that van that night. After her experiences with the band, Jennifer might not be a girl at all anymore...

 So, there are these two girls, and they're friends...

 One's a gobby bitch and apparently good looking (in an obvious sort of way)...

The other's a bit nerdy, but that might just be because she wears glasses...

They lez up...

One eats the others boyfriend...

And the nerdy one's all, like, What the Fuck?!

I picked out Jennifer’s Body for reviewing as part of this series with the express intention of ripping it apart as I’d seen it before and didn’t enjoy it that much. Last night, as I watched it again, I was surprised as I found it to be more than just entertaining, I thought it was good! This threw me, I mean how come I didn’t think much of it the first time but did the second? What had changed? What was different between the two viewings? And then it hit me. This time... I was sober!

Booze had severely impeded my judgement the last time, or rather it had magnified my feelings about a particular problem with Jennifer’s Body, and that’s Jennifer’s Body. More specifically, the actress behind it, Megan Fox. I do not like Megan Fox that much. I understand the attraction with her, she is relatively good looking, I’ve seen some of the Transformers movies, I’ve even seen the stills from Jennifer’s Body where she’s swimming naked in the lake (it was a camera trick, she wasn’t nekkid at all) but she’s nowhere near good looking enough for her looks to be able to distract from how bad an actress she is. Megan Fox can only play Megan Fox, she has no range at all and as a character actress, if she’s not playing the character of a vapid young woman, she’s fucked. The first time I sat through this movie all I could do (thanks to much imbibing) was shout abuse at the screen every time Fox appeared. This time however, I was able to get beyond my blinding hatred of shite acting and was able to see Jennifer’s Body for what it is, and that’s a good laugh with a bit of depth to it.

Jennifer’s Body is a horror comedy and it works very well. There are some good laugh out loud moments, and some great lines delivered well (i.e. not by Megan Fox). The script is punchy and well written and the story moves along at a nice pace. Despite their young age the characters are well developed, have back stories (thanks to flashbacks), and you do get drawn into that alien world of the relationships between teenage girls and how they operate. One of the strengths of the film is in how it examines the way the relationship between Jennifer and Needy works and how external influences come to bear on that, not just the events that happen to Jennifer as a result of getting into the van but also things like the girl who’s always digging at Needy, a girl who’s obviously blinded with jealousy over how well Needy gets on with someone like Jennifer (though I’m not sure if she actually wanted to be Needy’s friend or Jennifer’s – if anyone could shed some light on that I’d appreciate it).

Jennifer’s Body is well directed and Karyn Kusama manages to get a great performance from Amanda Seyfried as Needy despite her having to work with a plank like Fox. Effects wise there are some clever subtle moments that are delivered well, and some that are just CGI, but that’s kept to a minimum. There’s a nice splash of blood about the movie and one or two nicely gory moments. There’s more than one good makeup effect and the pyrotechnics used in the bar scene are excellent.

Jennifer’s Body is aimed at a younger audience and therefore music is used extensively to portray that fact. The Low Shoulder tune that dominates the soundtrack is perfect – just good enough and really annoying so that you can see how it would be a hit. The other tracks, including songs from Florence and the Machine and Panic! at the Disco, that feature are well used and not too distracting.

Having now seen Jennifer’s Body both drunk and sober I find myself torn between two radically opposed views on the film. Drunk: it’s a pile of dirt vehicle for that no-hope Megan Fox who’ll no doubt follow in the footsteps of other actresses just as great as her, big name stars like Denise Richards, and someday in the future after some fun with drink and drugs and a breakdown, she’ll probably get her very own reality show. Sober: it’s a clever, subtle comedy that’s really about the interactions and relationships between women that uses the metaphor of a “man-eater” to explain one aspect of those difficult aspects of life while all the time using surrounding characters to flesh out all the other problems that face two people regardless of the nature of their relationship that features that no-hope Megan Fox who’ll no doubt follow in the footsteps of other actresses just as great as her, big name stars like Denise Richards, and someday in the future after some fun with drink and drugs and a breakdown , she’ll probably get her very own reality show.

Two Thumbs Up for Jennifer’s Body.

Meanwhile, in Devil's Kettle: 

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