Critics and audiences alike were ready to pounce on Jennifers Body, ripping it to shreds much in the same way the titular character, a teenage beauty possessed by a bloodthirsty demon, does to her victims. Everyone seemed all too eager to see Transformers‘ Megan Fox fall flat in screenwriter Diablo Cody’s followup to Juno.
For haters of both, this would be evidence that Fox couldn’t act and that Cody was a one-trick pony. To say Jennifer’s Body isn’t as good as Juno is true, but it also isn’t a fair comparison. Putting aside all the stylised, slang-filled dialogue that people either love or hate, Juno is a thoughtful, human comedy with a lot of heart. Jennifer’s Body on the other hand is a cheeky B-movie with a lot of hearts being eaten.
The plot is lean, but how Foxs Jennifer becomes possessed is a juicy jab at the lengths to which some musicians are willing to go in order to make it big. A band (fronted by a very funny Adam Brody) are all too willing to sell out to Satan himself and need to sacrifice a virgin to seal the deal. Except Jennifer is no virgin and comes back from the dead with a taste for flesh.
Jennifer’s best friend is the appropriately named Needy (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia) and their dynamic is the best thing about the film. On the surface, it would be easy to dismiss Needy as another example of the clich that if you put glasses on a girl they are unattractive. But Needy’s self image spawns from the fact that her best friend is played by Fox, whose beauty could make just about any girl look and feel plain.
Jennifer’s Body presents a nice (if underdeveloped) exploration of the symbiotic relationship that can develop between female friends. Needy and Jennifer need each other to define themselves. The film takes this connection to odd places – they have an unexplained psychic connection, and there’s the much hyped girl-on-girl kiss – but it gets points for exploring it at all, especially in the typically male-centric horror genre.
Unfortunately, the plot of Jennifer’s Body is standard fare and Cody’s script is limited by genre constraints that it does not attempt to break. Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) creates a creepy atmosphere, but doesn’t provide much in the form of scares, which is a problem even if the film does have a comedic edge.
As for Fox, she clearly isn’t the next Meryl Streep, but she is the ideal choice for this role and it is definitely within her limited range. It isn’t saying much, but she delivers and even manages to handle Cody’s dialogue, which is sometimes too clever for its own good.
In spite of Fox’s star power, this is Seyfried’s film. She is a genuine talent with the range that Fox lacks. Seyfried gives a strong, likable performance that actually improves some of the film’s weaker elements. She gives Needy a clear character arc and helps to ground the film on a plane of reality.
Viewing Jennifer’s Body as the B-movie that it is, there is just enough of an edge to make it a slight cut above the average horror movie. No one will confusion this as a new gem of the genre but taking it for exactly what it is, and nothing more, it works.