Weird Watch: ‘Jennifer’s Body’

Travis Newton
Movies
Movies

Part of the joy of being a fan is finding odd and obscure gems that you end up falling in love with. For every Batman, there is a Darkman. For every Star Wars, there is a Space Mutiny. Here at Fandom, we like to go hunting for some offbeat and off-the-wall films and TV shows that might just become your own secret treasures. Strap yourself in and expect the unexpected, because this week’s Weird Watch is…

Jennifer’s Body

The core premise of Jennifer’s Body isn’t unusual. A high school girl gets possessed, and her best friend has to deal with the gruesome consequences. That’s broad and straightforward enough. The weirdness in Jennifer’s Body is all in the details, which add up to a possession movie unlike any I’ve ever seen. And in a time when possession stories are a dime a dozen, it’s time we took another look at this joint from director Karyn Kusama (The Invitation) and writer Diablo Cody.

Hot off the awards buzz of 2007’s pleasantly twee comedy Juno, the last thing many of us expected from Diablo Cody was a teen horror movie. But looking at it now, this perceived left turn makes more sense. Any pregnancy movie is likely to have some elements of body horror. Juno is no exception. It even features a big shout-out to Herschell Gordon Lewis, the director of 1963’s Blood Feast.

When Fox Atomic released Jennifer’s Body in 2009, it seemed difficult to place the movie in context. Who was the intended audience? The movie wasn’t for high-schoolers because its R-rating deterred them from seeing it in cinemas. It didn’t hit with the hardcore horror crowd because the flick mishandles its horror elements. The humor has a manic, almost Scott Pilgrim-y tone that doesn’t suit Kusama’s directorial style. The movie didn’t fare well with critics or audiences and quickly fell out of the pop culture conversation.

But today, supernatural horror is rife with possession stories. Audiences are eating them up. Even horror stories that don’t feature traditional Judeo-Christian ideas about demons are borrowing elements of possession horror. Jennifer’s Body, however, approaches the subject matter from a wholly unique angle. The film is a mismatched jumble of outstanding cinematography, good performances, limp effects, and painfully dated dialogue. The voiceover is grating and mostly unnecessary. The story’s nonlinear structure is a head-scratcher. But the approach in Jennifer’s Body is delightfully weird and worth celebrating.

Jennifer (Megan Fox) is almost everything her meek best friend Anita (Amanda Seyfried) isn’t. She’s like a midwestern teenage Kardashian sister without a filter. When Jennifer and Anita go to a bar to see a hunky rock band, Jennifer leaves with the band to have a night of fun. But the rockers have different plans for Jennifer. Under the impression that she’s a virgin, they murder her in a Satanic ritual. Only a few hours later, Jennifer wakes up bloody and disoriented. Oh, and she has an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

The way Jennifer’s Body deals with its demon is refreshing. This isn’t an exorcism story, and no one in the movie is out to save Jennifer’s soul. Instead, Jennifer is a creature whose monstrous behavior exposes the deep flaws in her friendship with Anita. It’s the story of a toxic friendship at its bitter end. And it owes a lot of that unique take to 2001’s Canadian feminist werewolf gem Ginger Snaps. But Jennifer’s Body is a much glossier affair than that scrappy little movie. It’s sexed up and candy colored and filled with bad songs from bands like Cobra Starship.

While I consider Jennifer’s Body a failure, it’s not a total write-off. It’s not an indistinguishably bland horror flick. You wouldn’t mistake it for another similar movie. It’s an intriguing little movie, if only for its few great ideas. It swings wildly between impressive and clunky and mostly ends up feeling like the latter. But in comparing it today’s very samey supernatural fare, it’s easier to see the value in this largely forgotten and weird little movie.

Travis Newton
Travis Newton is a Fan Contributor at Fandom. He began writing about movies and TV for CHUD.com in 2012, and co-hosts The Drew Reviews Podcast with Fandom Entertainment Editor Drew Dietsch. He’s partial to horror movies, action games, and Irish Breakfast tea.
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