What “Jennifer’s Body” Foretold

The 2009 horror movie “Jennifer’s Body,” directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Diablo Cody, is a high-school-centered story of two ladies who’re unlikely greatest associates—one turns into demonically possessed (turning vampiric and cannibalistic, devouring solely boys), whereas the opposite warily confronts the change. At the time of the film’s launch, it struck me as a sardonic satire, on younger males’s swaggering self-importance and high-school minutiae, that each boldfaced its politics and squandered its metaphysics. Rewatching it now (as of Wednesday, it’s obtainable free on Tubi and free to Amazon Prime subscribers), I discover the movie’s derisive tone to be far much less vital than the agony that it depicts—and I discover its politics to emerge much less from the overarching drama and the characters’ intentions than from the overwhelming symbolic energy of its intricate premise. It’s a film whose particulars danger getting misplaced within the hectic, gore-filled fury of its motion—however the understatement and submergence of its particulars are themselves part of the story.

The title character, Jennifer Check (performed by Megan Fox), is the pinnacle cheerleader at her highschool within the rural city of Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota. (The city is fictitious, however the waterfall it’s named for is actual.) She’s outgoing, brash, trendy, cynical, and assured; she’s properly conscious that she’s thought-about stunning and fascinating, and he or she makes use of her attract to have adventurous enjoyable. Her greatest buddy—seemingly her solely buddy, the nerdy, style-challenged Anita Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried), nicknamed Needy—is a basic wingwoman. (The unlikely friendship has its roots in early childhood, or, as Jennifer says, within the sandbox.) When Jennifer needs to go to a neighborhood roadhouse/bar to listen to an out-of-town band that’s enjoying there—as a result of she has designs on its lead singer—she recruits Needy to affix her there, and Needy makes certain to decorate enticingly sufficient however not a lot as to compete with Jennifer.

A scene of the ladies’ pre-concert primping, like the remainder of the movie, is narrated by Needy. The entire film is informed from her perspective and proven, as an prolonged flashback, from a psychological establishment, the place Needy is being held involuntarily. There, she’s identified by guards and different inmates for her truculence, even her violence. Thrown into solitary confinement after kicking a nutritionist (Candus Churchill) within the face, Needy begins to inform the story of her and Jennifer, which came about simply two months earlier than. At the bar, known as Melody Lane, Jennifer schemes to socialize in a complicated method—at the least, a high-school scholar’s concept of what’s subtle—with the lead singer, Nikolai (Adam Brody), by getting him the home specialty drink, a “9/11 tribute shooter” (although she herself is underage and is aware of that, to get these drinks, she’ll should flash the bartender). But Nikolai—himself a pretend sophisticate, one other small-town child (one who pretends to be from Brooklyn)—talks of Jennifer to his bandmates with misognynistic condescension, contemplating her simply one other groupie there for use for what he assumes is her virginity.

The particulars of the Melody Lane outing are so vital and so resonant that they lend the movie most of its energy. While the band is enjoying—and whereas the excited Jennifer is squeezing Needy’s hand so tightly that she leaves marks—a hearth begins within the membership’s rafters and spreads shortly, trapping many patrons. Jennifer freezes in worry however Needy pulls her to the lavatory, the place they escape out a small, excessive window. They and the band make it safely to the car parking zone, as different spectators run out, within the background, aflame and dying. Jennifer appears dissociated; Nikolai, who appears all too composed, invitations the 2 ladies to the band’s van and forces Jennifer to take a drink. Needy resists and tries to dissuade Jennifer, who seems to go along with Nikolai willingly, however is clearly in no state to consent. As the van drives off, Needy was sure, she says, that one thing terrible would occur.

Something terrible does occur—Nikolai and his bandmates grievously and violently abuse Jennifer (although the incident is barely seen later within the movie, as a flashback inside a flashback, when she in the end tells Needy the story). Later the identical night time, after the hearth Needy is house alone (whereas her mom works a late shift), and Jennifer turns up in her kitchen, horrifically wounded, dripping blood. Saying nothing, Jennifer tears at a roast hen in Needy’s fridge, roars, chokes, and vomits seemingly gallons of black blood that’s full of needle-like ballast, earlier than giving Needy one thing like a vampire kiss on the neck and leaving.

Yet, the subsequent day, in class, Jennifer turns up unhurt, seemingly fairly herself, albeit intensely sardonic, imply to Needy and to all, as their trainer (J. Ok. Simmons) speaks of the eight college students who died within the hearth the night time earlier than. After class, Needy confides in her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), concerning the horrific sight of the bloodied Jennifer within the kitchen simply hours earlier—and Chip, with out brazenly disbelieving her, advises her to see the varsity psychologist. That very day, after college, Jennifer flirts with Jonas (Josh Emerson), a varsity soccer participant, and seductively lures him into the woods, the place, as she begins to undress him and herself, she tears him up together with her fanged mouth. The homicide goes unexplained; she continues her stealthy reign of terror, killing different male classmates. Needy, in the meantime, notices that the whole college appears mournful and benumbed by the mounting tragedies—aside from Jennifer. As the collection of killings advances, Needy experiences telepathic visions that clarify to her, and to her alone, that Jennifer is the killer.

If there’s a telepathic connection between the 2 ladies, it’s in vital half based mostly on the anguish of enforced silence, the popularity that the horrific expertise that the one has endured and the opposite has witnessed will go broadly unacknowledged and unredressed. Where real-world justice is doomed to fail, the film’s plot gives a supernatural compensation. What all of Jennifer’s victims have in frequent is that they permit themselves to be attracted and seduced by Jennifer with out having any curiosity in or relationship together with her. Jennifer’s literal survival relies upon (for supernatural causes) on her skill to gratify her vampiric, cannibalistic hungers, and thus to pursue her revenge plot unimpeded. Her silent duplicity towards Needy—in impact, her gaslighting of Needy—is a matter of life and demise. The film dramatizes metaphysical revenge on a world—or half a world—out of whack, on males who solely need Jennifer’s physique.

The energy of the thought, although—of the silencing of each Jennifer and Needy within the face of a ruthless younger patriarchy—is surprisingly subordinated within the film. Its ambiguous aesthetic both deflects it with irony or vitiates it with rollicking spectacle, beginning with the zingy, clattery patter with which Cody’s script decorates teen-age life. In the briefly recalled good occasions, Needy and Jennifer tackle one another as “Vagisil” and “Monistat,” respectively. Jennifer calls the bar hearth a “white-trash pig roast” and Needy displays on the nation’s “tragedy boner” for the lethal hearth. The script comprises a plethora of pop-culture references with comedic spin, from Phil Collins (Needy has by no means heard of him) to Maroon 5 (upheld by Nikolai as heroes) to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Jennifer thinks it’s a boxing film). The film’s fabricated slang appears to ricochet off the lockers in the highschool’s hallways, however to purely decorative impact—besides to the extent that its gaudy clamor smothers the silencing of its two feminine protagonists. Cody’s megawatt script appears to commandeer Kusama’s course, overriding the fierce and focussed concepts.

The movie satirizes the bubble-like sanctimoniousness of small-town life with a subplot by which the band capitalizes on the tragic hearth by writing a track about it, which turns into a type of nationwide dirge and makes them native heroes to Needy’s and Jennifer’s classmates. Yet the twist is excess of a mere mocking of maudlin expressions of public sentiment: when Needy calls the group out for its smarmy profiteering, one other woman, an Asian classmate named Chastity (Valerie Tian), defends the band for its noble gesture—a wierd symbolic illustration of females publicly siding with predatory males. Neither the characters nor the native context emerge with ample substance to infuse the movie’s grand design with significant psychology or politics. Also, the film’s casting and characterizations are apportioned narrowmindedly and obliviously: the nonwhite characters—corresponding to Chastity, the unnamed nutritionist whom Needy assaults, a jail orderly named Raymundo (Dan Joffre) to whom Needy condescends, and an trade scholar known as solely “Ahmet from India” (Aman Johal)—are handled as mere dramatic props.

The imaginative and prescient in “Jennifer’s Body” of the hazard, insult, dismissal, and abuse awaiting younger ladies—and the determined, self-destructive efforts to confront it—anticipates the immense energy of such movies as final 12 months’s “Promising Young Woman.” It additionally anticipates that movie’s aesthetic blind spots. Both movies are in the end extra gratifying as illustrations of concepts than as experiences. In “Jennifer’s Body,” the pessimistic addendum of a metaphysical ingredient—suggesting no method out besides by means of supernatural intervention, whether or not divine or satanic—is conceptually grand however directorially slight. The movie’s livid and empathetic basis, tethered to its supernatural superstructure, made it a possible successor to “Twin Peaks.” Its impulses and implications, if not its comparatively incomplete and flip world-building, are worthy of the comparability.

New Yorker Favorites

Source link