Theatrical review: Jennifer’s Body

High school horror for the noughties.



After battling Decepticons for the first two Transformers instalments (and Bay and much of the crew of said robo-movies too, it would seem), Megan Fox gets her first leading role and, on paper, it couldn’t be more perfect. A cheerleading high school girl whom the guys drool over and the girls want to be; the usual highs and lows and popularity contests of the hormone-years spliced up with a little demonic intervention – Jennifer’s Body is dressed to kill. Throw into the mix a director in the shape of Karyn Kusama looking to prove her debut was no one-off fluke and an Oscar-winning screenwriter in Diablo ‘Juno’ Cody, and you have a sure-fire recipe for success. Don’t you? Yet somewhere along the lines, the recipe gets confused and the end result emerges somewhat overcooked.

Fox plays Jennifer, the adored teenager with the world, and the guys of the town Devil’s Kettle, at her feet and a life-long best friend in the shape of bookish Needy (Seyfried). But a night out to see a local up-and-coming indie band has hellish repercussions for Jen, who, after assorting with the members of said outfit, ends the evening out vomiting up blood and ugliness in Needy’s kitchen. Next day, she’s back at school, but acting a whole lot different and is especially unconcerned by a spate of attacks that have left local boy-people mauled and eviscerated. Yes, with a little help from her newfound friends, Jen has become a man-eater of entirely new proportions.

Picking up where Juno left off, Jennifer’s Body is packed with the sort of pop-culture laced banter and catchphrase-friendly quips Cody has quickly become noted for, and there’s also the smart observations of teeny girl relationships and flashes of the comedic genius that saw her gaining a Screenwriting Oscar on her first time out. Yet despite this, Jennifer’s Body feels somewhat unsure of itself, flailing unconvincingly and floundering when it wants to taunt, flaunt and flourish.

Chief concern is the film’s identity crisis – it’s not sure if it is satirising the horror genre, teen films, or teenagers themselves, instead opting to occupy a middle ground that does none of these effectively and which is much happier to adhere to conventions than confound them, as Jen picks off male-folk about town. Playing more like a routine horror, there is little mystery to the tale and Kusama serves up even fewer shocks. However, Fox sinks her teeth into the role of the hormore-hellhound winningly, and the film gets by on its own exuberance and Cody-fied eccentricity, even if it is not the genre- or generation-defining film we were hoping for.

Not so much a miss as just misguided and malformed, Jennifer’s Body has enough smarts to stand out, but is not the mighty meeting of minds it could have been.