Review: ‘Jennifer’s Body’

Feeling awfully long for a short movie, two-dimensional characters and spotty editing fail to capitalize on a clever idea.

“Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried) latched onto her naturally charismatic friend Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) at an early age. In high school, Needy pretty much does as Jennifer tells her, even sneaking out to see a seedy rock band playing late at a local bar. In the wake of an accidental fire, Jennifer abandons Needy to take a dangerous ride with the band members only to mysteriously reappear hours later looking as if she’d been through Hell and back. While the town still mourns about the people lost in the bar fire, mutilated bodies (unrelated to the fire) start turning up, and the town itself seems to radiate gloom… except for Jennifer. Why does she always look so happy the day after a murder?

Virtually an all-female production (writer, director, stars), you’d think this was some kind of horror-fueled female empowerment film, yet it’s advertised as a slasher film targeting boys. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on either level regardless of intent. As a horror film, we know too much about the premise to be either scared or surprised. Megan Fox’s performance as a vapid, self-centered monster doesn’t seem out of character enough to be called a performance, and with the rest of the cast emasculated and written as incapable of taking action, waiting for “Needy the Hero” to emerge and save us all is tedious and, quite frankly, boring.

Having Fox’s character “along for the ride” between kills may have been the films Achilles heel. Seeing her every day and in every scene isn’t monstrous or horrific. Halfway through the film, everyone from the police and parent groups to the FBI should have been scouring the town looking for the “butchering serial killer,” (c’mon, Mulder and Scully would be all over this, or maybe the Winchester bros.) Of course, only Needy knows who is responsible and can get close enough to stop the mayhem. This kind of escalation could have generated much more tension, action, and even a few more special effects. But at the script level, the story tries to be this metaphor thing about realizing people who turn into monsters may have been monsters all along, and it doesn’t work. For an example of doing it right, see the first three seasons of Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

With Fox playing, well, herself, it’s up to Amanda Seyfried to carry the film, and as much as the film lets her, she does. Sadly, she’s far better than the material, and there are too many instances where she should be allowed to do something a lot sooner. By the time the credits roll, the scenes that should have been in the final act or sooner suddenly appear in the credits, which REALLY makes you wonder why we had to wait so long for a resolution. While the horror/thriller genre can be made to serve a good character study, it simply doesn’t work when there’s not enough character to study.

(a one skull recommendation out of four)

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