Two years ago, way back in 2007, a little movie took the world by storm, first earning standing ovations on the festival circuits before getting a wide release and earning milions upon millions of dollars at the box office and becoming the highest grossing film in Fox Searchlight Pictures' history. That movie was Juno, a delightful little film that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and written by a talented newcomer named Diablo Cody who would go on to win Best Original Screenplay, and deservedly so. Juno was a brilliant film. Her follow-up, Jennifer's Body, doesn't fare quite as well. It's certainly not a flop, but given the illustrious debut of Cody, one expects more than what this competent, but forgettable horror movie delivers.
Jennifer's Body begins with Needy (Amanda Seyfried) in prison for unknown reasons. All we know from her narration is that she is there and it has something to do with Jennifer (Megan Fox). Flashback to before this time and we learn that the two best friends went to a bar to see a band play, one that Jennifer was dying to meet. After the band finishes and Jennifer is thoroughly inebriated, the band takes her away in their van and Needy is left alone. She goes home worried about her friend, but soon finds her in her house, cut up, bloody and acting oddly, making strange noises and vomiting a weird substance all over her floor. After this night, the guys in the town begin to mysteriously die and their bodies are only partly found because the other parts have been eaten. Needy quickly realizes that Jennifer is the culprit and plans on doing something about it, but knows that these are no ordinary murders.
It's quite obvious from the get go that Jennifer's Body is indeed a Diablo Cody movie. Her trademark hipster style lingo that dominated Juno dominates much of this film too, but whereas it worked in Juno, it comes off as pretentious and uninspired here, like she couldn't make the transition between genres and took what worked in that film and twisted it to fit into this one, but to no avail.
The character of Juno was an unconventional, eccentric teenager living in a realized world and dealing with real problems. Her sarcastic vernacular worked as a way for her to hide her fear and insecurities of bringing a baby into the world at such a young age. The characters in this movie are archetype, Jennifer being the hot one and Needy being the nerdy, smart one and neither stand out among the dozens of other kids at their school. Juno was an abnormal teenager living in a normal world, but these characters are just as normal as their surroundings and let's face it, people do not talk like this, especially considering that Needy is a bible toting Christian with crucifixes adorning the walls of her home. I doubt she would be using phrases like "freak-tarded" to describe the crazy events happening around town. The hip dialogue was unnecessary and, despite a few inspired moments, detracted severely from the overall product.
Still, it shows promise. Regardless of the sometimes annoying dialogue, it is written pretty well and actually manages to build a decent amount of suspense. The first time Jennifer shows up in Needy's house early in the film, it is truly creepy and Fox pulls this scene off devilishly cool, slowly revealing a smile while blood drips from her mouth. It builds tension and has a pay off that is reminiscent of older horror movies, not relying on jump scares, but rather haunting imagery. To say that this scene is frightening is putting it mildly.
Perhaps it was inevitable in this day and age, but it didn't stay this way, resorting back to the same old tired clichés most horror movies fall back on, like birds loudly appearing out of nowhere, causing the audience to jump, but providing zero substance in the process. It's not particularly clever, it's not particularly new, it's not particularly scary and it drags near the end with a final confrontation between Jennifer and Needy that is laughably stupid, utilizing a BFF necklace as a means to more or less seal Jennifer's fate. How quaint.
The occasional narrative hiccup can't detract from its surprisingly stylistic aesthetics, however. Jennifer's Body boasts great direction and beautiful cinematography that highlights a good amount of filmmaking ingenuity (including a scene where blood spews from the silhouettes on the wall). This isn't your typical minimal effort harebrained horror film. Talent was put into this one.
Interestingly, part of that talent comes from Megan Fox, who has done little to show me she has a gift for acting in her previous roles, which include two awful Transformers movies and a part in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People where she played a stupid, spoiled young starlet, which I doubt is much of a stretch, but she is very good here. She proves herself quite capable of handling a leading role, portraying an evil, demonized girl who must feed on her victims to stay strong, but simultaneously making her character likable, which is an impressive feat indeed.
Jennifer's Body is a relatively strong horror movie that could have been so much better had Cody been able to subdue herself when it came to that aforementioned hipster lingo, overusing idiotic made up words like "lesbi-gay" to an irredeemable extent. However, it does feature a full blown make out scene between Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried which is narratively unnecessary, but damned appreciated, which is kind of how I felt about the movie as a whole. Was it necessary? Nope. But it was fun while it lasted and it's worth seeing.
Jennifer's Body receives 3/5