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Wayback Wednesday: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense, I want a Jennifer’s Body TV series and I want it now!

With Halloween only days away (I’M SO EXCITED) and reviews of horror movies flooding my timeline more so than ever, one movie I repeatedly see people posting and talking about is Jennifer’s Body (2009). This is one of those movies that I’ve always heard people rave about and mention how it’s an underrated gem that was ahead of its time. Having heard that for years coupled with my steady appreciation and fondness for the black comedy genre, I was actually quite excited to watch this movie for the first time. I can happily report that not only was Jennifer’s Body exactly what I was expecting (and more!) but I can honestly say that I have a new movie I’ll be on the hunt for anytime I’m somewhere that sells DVDs. I need this in my collection! Sidenote, I miss HMV so much you guys. Like, SO MUCH.

Credit: / 20th Century Fox

Written by Diablo Cody, Jennifer’s Body tells the story of Jennifer Check, a high school cheerleader who after being unsuccessfully sacrificed to Satan by a rock group seeking fame and fortune, becomes a succubus who must devour her male classmates to sustain her power and beauty. Her best fiend Anita “Needy” Lesnicky soon discovers Jennifer’s demonic transformation and sets out to put an end to the terror before Jennifer decides Needy’s boyfriend Chip is next on the menu.

Jennifer’s Body has earned an interesting reputation in the decade since its release. Not only did it initially gain a cult following (as many of the best movies do) but it has since been reevaluated and come to be known as the female empowerment black comedy it was always meant to be. Back in 2009 the movie was infamously incorrectly marketed towards teenage boys (who wouldn’t even be able to get into the theatre to see this R rated movie), hoping to capitalize on Megan Fox’s growing status as a sex symbol and fill seats with the oh so coveted demographic of straight men. Ugh, remember in 2009 when we still had to endure all forms of media being made to satisfy the desires of straight men? I shudder at the memory.

Anyway, despite being dubbed a failure upon release, Jennifer’s Body eventually found its intended audience – women, the LGBTQ+ community and anyone who loves a snarky, campy horror-comedy – and I’m thrilled that it now gets the recognition it deserves. Is it one of the scariest, funniest horror-comedies I’ve ever seen? No. But is it far sharper and more entertaining than the dumb, sexy teen flick it was marketed as? Absolutely. It might not be the first movie I’d choose if I were looking for scares or laughs, but there are a humble offering of both to entertain even the most casual of viewers. There wasn’t a minute of this movie during which I was bored or wanted to stop watching. Jennifer’s Body is cheeky and twisted, delightfully dark and always interesting. The best way I can describe it is Mean Girls (2004) meets The Exorcist (1973). It’s a horror-comedy that delivers the same amount of chills and laughs as say, Drag Me to Hell (2009), a critically-acclaimed horror-comedy that I actually enjoyed less than Jennifer’s Body. But come on…this movie was made for me. A demonic cheerleader who feeds on boys? Literally Hell yes to all of this!

It’s so frustrating to realize how badly 20th Century Fox fumbled the bag when it came to the initial release of this movie. Truly, the studio had the completely wrong target audience in mind. Within the first five minutes it was astoundingly clear to me that Jennifer’s Body is meant for the ladies and the gays. Horror, smart writing, A-list actresses, an Amy Sedaris extended cameo…this one is for us, ladies and gays! Cody’s script is so full of biting retorts, intentionally campy dialogue and satirical takes that the fact it’s intended to be a black comedy that both respects and lampoons the horror genre is glaringly obvious. I cackled when the Devil-worshipping struggling rock band dryly stated without any irony, “If you don’t get on Letterman or some soundtrack, you’re screwed. Satan is our only hope.”

Like Scream (1996) – check out my review, hereJennifer’s Body plays to the tropes we know and love about the genre but finds a new way to have fun with them as it does so. I love a movie that isn’t afraid to blend the silly with the scary and Jennifer’s Body does so wonderfully. If this movie were released in the bonkers, anything goes era of the 1980s, it would be as revered as say, Heathers (1988). If it were released in the more open-minded movie era of the present, it would be as acclaimed as say, Ready or Not (2019). Not to say that Jennifer’s Body is a perfect movie from start to finish. There wasn’t nearly enough murder and mayhem for my liking and while large parts of the writing are memorably cutting, a LOT of it A) is pretty cringey and doesn’t hold up and B) is full of words that I suspect Cody fabricated because I don’t remember anyone in 2009 using phrases like, “you’re lime jello” to describe being jealous. If I had actually gotten around to watching this movie in 2009 it’s exactly the kind of edgy (for the time), offbeat and sardonic movie that I would have suggested to watch at a sleepover or rent from Blockbuster each Halloween. Great. Now I’m nostalgic for HMV AND Blockbuster.

Maybe I’m late to the party on this but I’ve been watching interviews of Megan Fox lately and have become so bewitched by her charm and wit that I’ve low-key become a fan of hers. Let me just say this to Hollywood: Cast Megan Fox in more smart comedies! She has a tone and delivery to her that I think would be so gleeful to watch in any number of genres as long as she has a quality script backing her up. Jennifer’s Body is a great example of her talent. Fox is devilishly good in this role. Sassy, vulnerable, manipulative and downright evil, watching her as this demonic mean girl is a dark delight. I firmly believe that no one could have brought the same evil yet playful energy to Jennifer that Fox does. She’s mesmerizing. I enjoyed watching Fox as Jennifer so much that by the movie’s end I wanted to see so much more of her and the monster she becomes. That’s how compelling Fox is. Could we please have a sequel where Jennifer goes to college? Fox looks young enough to pass for her 20s! It could work!

Kudos to the entire cast of Jennifer’s Body. They all have a solid understanding of the type of movie they’re in. The tone that Cody and director Karyn Kusama establish is carried well throughout the movie by a cast of talented actors who have a firm grasp of the script. No one is trying to be anything they’re not supposed to be, y’know? Adam Brody plays an incredibly insufferable doubchebag to a T, a role that I’m beginning to discover he plays surprisingly well. Amanda Seyfried is fantastic as the adorkable heroine who overcomes her shyness to put a stop to her newly evil friend and plays Needy with just the right amount of grit, innocence and determination needed for a horror-comedy like Jennifer’s Body. Cody wanted the movie to speak to the complex relationships between best friends and while the movie takes a supernatural approach to that, I think it succeeds in doing so largely in part because of the chemistry between Seyfried and Fox. I especially loved that Needy gets to end the movie EXACTLY how I wanted it to end! Seriously, stick around for those end credits. Trust me.

Jennifer’s Body may not be  fantastic or perfect but there is so much potential and it’s so close to reaching that full potential and being an amazingly cool fun movie that it’s at least worth a watch. It’s most definitely worth a rewatch if you haven’t seen it in a while because oh wow, this movie is one hell of a ride. I’m an instant fan. Wait, did I just talk myself into being Jennifer Check next Halloween? 

Are you a fan of Jennifer’s Body?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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