This is hands down the most quotable movie on the 31 days of horror calendar. Part of me thinks the best critical analysis of Jennifer’s Body is just an arbitrary list of every bit of genius that comes out of Jennifer Check and her best friend Needy Lesnicky’s mouths. But instead – because that would be too easy – let’s talk about why their banter is so damn good in the first place. Let’s talk about female friendship.
You killed my fucking boyfriend, you goddamn monster.
Jennifer’s Body is a horror movie. It’s about a girl who’s taken by a group of devil worshipers and sacrificed to Satan in the woods. But it’s also a romance – and not between Needy and her boyfriend Chip, or Jennifer and any of the boys she eats (she does that). By my account, it’s a tragic romance between two girls who have been friends since childhood. Jennifer and Needy are the couple that matters, the couple whose love is threatened, the couple whose relationship is doomed to fall apart. The boy eating is merely a backdrop. And a poignant one.
Diablo Cody wrote Juno before this, and would go on to write Young Adult after it. Juno established the bizarre teenage slang-dialect that’s going on throughout Jennifer’s Body (just let it happen), and Young Adult, is in my opinion, a master work in creating a totally unsympathetic main character. But this little genre film, in the hands of director Karyn Kusama (Girl Fight), is a feminist anthem if I ever did see one.
In the true-story of the terrible marketing of this film, the only scene that seemed to make the trailers and the hype was the kiss between Amanda Seyfried (Needy) and Megan Fox (Jennifer). However, in context within the whole film, it is great. And not just for the make-out. But because their friendship, their genuine attraction to one another, is real, and well-developed, and complicated.
How many horror films have the demon sit down and explain herself to her former best friend, including the details of exactly what happened, why she’s killing boys, and don’t you think that’s cool?
Where Jennifer lures boys into empty half-built suburban homes (a lovely illustration of the late 2000s housing market crash) to kill and eat them, she meets (okay, surprises and terrifies) Needy in her bedroom and has what is the sweetest, most honest, romantic moment she seems capable of having. There is a power to succubus Jennifer that no one can resist, not even Needy, but although Jennifer uses that irresistible pull on her bestie, she never threatens her with the same fate. She doesn’t want to eat her. She just wants to tease her a little bit. For fun.
Of course, Jennifer’s not kind to Needy. In fact, she’s awful, going after the boys her friend likes the most. But what is truer between teenage girls than the boys and hormones that seem to get in the way? Only that Jennifer’s choices for dinner are meant to affect Needy on the deepest level possible. Jennifer is a terrible friend. But she is also in love with her best friend. And Needy returns it – making her ultimate choices all the harder, and more meaningful, when she has to make them.
I can do this one in a sentence. Jennifer perching like a vulture on the back of chair in the dark. Boom. Done.
As mentioned, I have strong feelings for the Needy/Jennifer sleepover scene. But I also love the shot of Jennifer swimming, post-kill, in the lake behind the high school. I love that when Needy has sex for the first time, she sees Jennifer. I really enjoy Chip’s questioning of the school library’s Occult book section. And ultimately, the use of Tommy TuTone’s 867-5309 during a virgin sacrifice is just, well, sick. SICK.
Other Things to Notice:
This movie is jokes on jokes on jokes. But it is also offers serious commentary when it needs to, especially about the way sexually powerful women are stigmatized and abused. Watching Jennifer be force-fed a drink and invited into a van full of strangers is uncomfortable at best. And for those that would cry out that Jennifer is asking for it because of who she is, and the things she does before it – believe me, this movie thinks you’re part of the problem.
Basically, watch for everything that makes this film a social commentary on women, women’s rights, and the bonds women have with one another. There is a thesis-length piece of writing here, but I am giving it a blog post.
Keep an open mind, and enjoy something special that nearly every critic seemed to miss.
If You Like It, Watch:
Jawbreaker: This is a little bit horror, a little bit comedy, and a lotta bit teenage pulpy goodness. It’s a much meaner Mean Girls. With a dead girl in the trunk of a car.
Teeth: You need to consider your life choices when your boyfriend brings you a copy of this movie and says, “this reminded me of you.” But, let’s be honest, this is definitely in my wheelhouse. While this isn’t about ladies’ relationships with each other, it is about women being taken advantage of by men – and getting some unexpected vengeance out of it. I’d warn you, but, I’d rather you just watch it.
P.S. I have now had multiple requests for a post on Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. I’m on it.