2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 17: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Day 17 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is 17. Die Laughing. “Hello?” “I don’t think comedy belongs in horror.” “You got the wrong number, pal.” I’ve picked a movie that got a bad rap when it came out but time seems to have been kinder to, Jennifer’s Body. I missed it on the first go-round, so let’s get into it.

Jennifer’s Body was written by Diablo Cody,  who became known for the blog and book Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, as well as the screenplay for Juno. Since then, she’s done script revisions on the new Evil Dead as well as writing Ricki and the Flash and Tully.

Named for the Hole song, this is a film about not just demonic possession, but dealing with high school and the changes that childhood friendships go through. Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) and Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) have been friends since childhood, but times are changing.

Yet at the very start of the film, Anita is locked in a mental institution and unafraid to attack anyone in her way. She flashes back to her high school days with Jennifer, who was her the exact diametrical opposite. Where Anita is quiet, rude and withdrawn, Jennifer is loud, snide, sexy and popular.

Everything changes on the night that they attend a concert at the local dive bar, Melody Lane, to see Low Shoulder. While the band plays, a fire explodes across the bar and kills everyone inside, except the band, Jennifer and Anita. The band leaves with Jennifer over Anita’s protests. Later that night, she shows up bloody and shaking, devouring the inside of Anita’s mom refrigerator and spewing black fluid all over the linoleum.

Yet the next day, Jennifer is just fine. But things aren’t fine any longer. The town is devastated by the fire and the captain of the football team has been devoured in the woods. The only people who are doing well are Low Shoulder, whose heroism in the fire has been noted. Now, they want to make a charity performance at the school.

A month later, Jennifer is growing paler and needier, accepting a date with the school’s most emo kid, Colin, to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While Needy is losing her virginity to Chip, Jennifer is murdering her date.

Needy finds Jennifer drenched in blood and that’s when the secret comes out: Low Shoulder had tried to sacrifice her for fame and fortune, but since Jennifer wasn’t a virgin, she remains permanently possessed. Her first victim was the foreign exchange student that night after the fire. When she has eaten someone, she can survive any injury, feel no pain and becomes even more beautiful.

Needy does her research and learns that Jennifer is a succubus who can only be killed when she is hungry. She warns Chip not to attend the school dance, where she feels that Jennifer will feed on everyone. She even breaks up with him, but he comes anyone to his doom. The two girls battle in Jennifer’s bedroom before Needy is able to stab her best friend in the heart with a box cutter, ending her reign of terror.

Unfortunately, Jennifer’s mother only sees her daughter being killed, which is why Needy is in the asylum. As we come back to the beginning, Needy learns that a non-fatal bite from Jennifer has given her powers. She soon escapes, hitchhikes to Low Shoulder’s motel (of all people, Lance Henriken gives her a ride) and gets revenge for her and Jennifer.

Personally? I liked it. There’s a great moment during Needy’s first sexual encounter with her boyfriend where she notices all of Jennifer’s victims watching, much like the theater of corpses from An American Werewolf in London. I liked the relationship between the girls and am glad they didn’t follow through on the original plans to have a sex scene between them, as I felt that would have jumped too far into pure titillation.

It’d be interesting to see how this film would fare if made today. In a February 2016 New York Times interview, director Karyn Kusama (GirlfightThe Invitation) said that the studio’s all-male marketing department had no idea what to do with the movie, even suggesting that Megan Fox do live sex chats on amateur porn sites to drum up interest in the film. Obviously, the #metoo moment came at the right time.

The only downer to this film for me is how close it is to Ginger Snaps. It hits so many of the same story beats that one wonders exactly how many times Diable Cody watched it. That said, the music is decent and this movie will keep you entertained for 90 minutes.

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