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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FILM REVIEW OF "JENNIFER'S BODY" (2009)

Megan Fox takes top billing in “├ćon Flux” director Karyn Kusama’s evil girl horror comedy “Jennifer’s Body,” (**** out of *****) an original, R-rated, feminist chiller about a lusty succubus and her vengeful adversary. Of course, “Transformers” babe Megan sheds not a stitch, but she chows down on dudes with an appetite. Although it lacks the onion layers of detail that characterized Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning “Juno” script, “Jennifer’s Body” possesses a mischievous “Heathers” meets “Carrie” quality that transcends its blood and gore basics. Indeed, the dialogue bears the quintessential Cody quality. Meaning, it is self-conscious, flirtatious, and quotable, like nothing you’d expect in a standard issue scary movie. The characters aren’t the usual ensemble of fish bait waiting to be munched by the bunch. “Jennifer’s Body” never wears out its welcome and Kusama keeps it compelling, even when she is not trying to jolt up with a scare.

Anita ‘Needy’ (Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia!") and Jennifer (Megan Fox) have been best friends since they met in a sandbox. Indeed, they wear matching necklaces with heart-shaped pendants bearing the initials BFF in them. They attend the same high school in the small town of Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota. The town takes its name from a local waterfall that apparently has no bottom. Scientists have been tossing everything known to mankind short of humans into the pool, but nothing has come back. Jennifer convinces Needy to ditch her drummer boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons of “The Spirit”), for the evening and accompany her to a honky-tonk called The Melody Lounge Tavern where a big city indie Goth band named ‘Low Shoulder’ is scheduled to perform. Chip warns them that the bar is a dive. Nothing, however, can distract Jennifer from sexy lead singer Nikolai Wolf (Adam Brody of “Grind”) and he reciprocates her interest. In fact, the whole band agrees that Nikolai has chosen well. During their performance, a fire erupts in the tavern and flames engulf everything. Several people perish, but Needy and Jennifer escape without a scratch. Right behind them with a drink in his hand appears Nikolai.

Not surprisingly, Nikolai has mesmerized Jennifer and persuaded her to jump into his sinister van with his fellow musicians. Needy turns them down. The next time that Needy sees Jennifer, our hot chick protagonist stands drenched in blood and projectile vomits black goo all over Needy’s linoleum kitchen floor. Needy describes it to Chip as “roadkill and sewing needles mixed together.'' The next morning Needy sees Jennifer in class looking none the worse for wear. Before she was just a cheerleader, but now Jennifer has mutated into pure evil. Indeed, Jennifer lives to gobble up guys. Literally, she feasts off the flesh of teenage boys. She lives to kill and she doesn’t care who she gets. Jennifer’s lack of discrimination spells big trouble for her. Sometimes, she attracts an audience of woodland creatures who join in on the human buffet after she has stuffed herself.

One of the high school teachers, Mr. Wroblewski (J.K. Simmons of “Extract”) stumbles out into the woods behind the school and finds the star linebacker, Jonas Konelle (Josh Emerson of “Comeback Season”) dead on his back. Jennifer has ripped Jonas’ stomach wide open, and a “Bambi” type doe licks his innards. Eventually, Jennifer lets Needy in on her secret. The Goth band sacrificed her to Satan and carved her up. Nikolai and company thought Jennifer was a virgin, but she wasn’t one. Now, she has come back as a demon with a need to feed. When she looks her best, Jennifer has been feeding. When she runs out of guys to eat, she looks horrible. She doesn’t wear make-up and her hair loses its fluff. Eventually, Jennifer begins to eyeball Needy’s boyfriend Chip so Needy ditches him at the spring high school formal. Needy and Jennifer part company as friends when the latter attacks Chip. This is about the time that things really start to happen, emphasizing the dominant theme of gals versus gals in a struggle between demonic titans.

Basically, “Jennifer’s Body” qualifies as a standard Dracula versus Van Helsing type yarn. No, vampires do not infest in this outstanding fright flick. A monster roams the land, feeding off defenseless mankind, specifically teenage guys, and a hero—heroine in this instance--must destroy it after acquiring the knowledge. Happily, this formulaic nail biter told in flashback mode springs a sufficient number of surprises. The action is narrated from Needy’s perspective and her first line is: “Hell is a teenage girl.” This film chronicles the friendship between Needy and Jennifer and their virtually psychic bond. For example, Needy has an uncanny way of knowing where Jennifer is and she can sometimes experience what Jennifer is doing. Director Kusama, who also directed “Girlfight,” splashes buckets of bloods all over “Jennifer’s Body,” but she draws the line at gratuitous nudity, though a gratuitous lesbian make-out scene occurs over half-way through the pictures’ 101 minutes.

Sometimes the predictable occurs as it should, but sometimes Kusama and Cody pull a switcheroo. Primarily, Megan Fox has to look spectacular with lots of lip gloss, but Kusama never lets her starlet embarrass herself. Fox gets to play a round character in that the character undergoes change. She starts out as straight vampy cheerleader Jennifer and turns into demonic Jennifer. On the other hand, Seyfried and a strong supporting cast, including J.K. Simmons, as a teacher with a prosthetic arm, get a lot of mileage out of their contribution. The ending is terrific, too.