Jennifer’s Body Dir. Karyn Kusama

[20th Century Fox; 2009]

Jennifer’s Body is a Hole song and a very bad horror movie. In fact, Courtney Love’s botched collagen injections are scarier than any scene in the film. Borrowing from a variety of genres—zombie, slasher, splatter, exploitation—the movie attempts to spook its audience into believing they’re watching a scary flick, but minimal gore, low-grade CGI effects, and creaky floorboards are the only frights it has to offer. So it's hard to imagine why it's being marketed as a horror film, rather than a dark comedy. However, underneath the gloss of red corn syrup and demonic possession is a brilliant story about teenage girl friendships.

Trading in the romantic, twee hamburger telephone bullshit that was Juno for a bloodthirsty comedy about BFF love/hate relationships, screenwriter Diablo Cody ventures into the stormy waters of feminism and female sexuality with the story of Jennifer (a tolerable Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried), best friends since childhood with little else but the past in common. Jennifer has learned the power of her libido and uses sex to escape the tedium of small-town hell. She props up her own ego on the crutches of Needy’s not-so-sisterly infatuation with her, keeping her friend around because she’s terrified of being alone. Why does Needy put up with Jennifer’s bullshit (and a ridiculous nickname)? The answer is in the subtle (and not so subtle) lovesick looks and gestures, all performed with sincerity and heartbreak by the talented Amanda Seyfried, who plays Needy as a confused mess of love and hate. She misses the childhood Jennifer, and we witness their sandbox love in occasional sweet, not corny, flashbacks. Realizing they were more honest as five year olds, Needy tries to reconcile the nostalgic Jennifer with the present sexy-bitch Jennifer.

Fueling the film are lezzy undertones that are neither sensational nor forced, thanks to Cody’s knack for psychovaginalysis. The transition from body-curious games like “Mommy and Daddy” or “Doctor and Nurse” to full-fledged sexual attraction is always, it seems, one-sided, featuring one friend who finds these games more “fun” than everyone else. The friendship becomes a hierarchy, as both girls realize the vulnerability inherent in such attraction, thus giving the uninterested friend an unspoken advantage over the attracted friend. I’m sure this happens in male relationships, too, but it seems ubiquitous among young women. I went through it with Ashley Ranson, who was the love of my life in sixth grade. She made fun of my frizzy hair and called me fat, but sometimes we made out in the woods after school, and I kept coming back for more. It’s the evolution of a masochist. If it weren't for Jennifer's pesky demonic possession, Needy’s story could have carried the film into bleaker, more Todd Solondz-esque territory.

Jennifer’s possession involves a funny, far-fetched group of indie rockers trying to achieve fame via Satan worship. Under the false — very false — impression that Jennifer is a virgin, the band “Low Shoulder” lures her into their van and drives to the woods to offer her up as a sacrifice. The band mates are hesitant to go through with the ritual, but the lead singer (played by a surprisingly funny Adam Brody, who seems to be channeling The Killers' Brandon Flowers) assures them that if they do this, they will be “cool and famous, like that guy from Maroon 5.” Reassured by thoughts of Adam Levine, the band goes through with the sacrifice. Since Jennifer is, in her own words, “not even a back-door virgin,” things get a little screwy, and Jennifer comes back from the dead to eat boys.

Thankfully, Jennifer’s Body escapes the stale formula of female sexuality = death and destruction, by allowing “innocent” Needy to enjoy sex without using it as a weapon. Jennifer’s sexual personae and subsequent killing rampage reeks of postfeminist I-use-sex-to-get-what-I-want ideology, but perhaps Cody is subverting the message by saying the opposite: Don’t use sex to get what you want, because you just might end up a zombie. Or better yet, don’t use sex to get what you want because you might end up like Megan Fox.

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