I’m not really sure if Diablo Cody has her finger on the pulse of young America, or if she’s simply concocting her own vernacular in hopes that young people will adopt it, but, whatever the case, Cody’s signature dialogue has proven quite polarizing. Fans love the wordy witticisms spouted by her uncommonly astute teen characters while “haters” generally find her pop-culture laden wordplay grating and pretentious. Personally, I’m riding the fence on this one as Cody’s dialogue has me rolling on the floor almost as often as it has me rolling my eyes, so, as with another notably loquacious wordsmith, Kevin Smith, I find myself something of a conditional fan. After the wild success of Juno, Cody announced her next project, Jennifer’s Body, would take her into the realm of comedy/horror. While many a horror purist, still reeling from the Scream era of parody and self-awareness, cringed at the idea of a genre film infused with Juno-speak, the announcement that the film would serve as a starring vehicle for fanboy obsession du jour, Megan Fox, certainly made the news that much easier to swallow. Perhaps it was the inevitable Juno backlash in full effect or the oversaturation of its young, controversial star, but the film barely made a dent in the box-office as critics generally panned Jennifer’s Body, while audiences simply ignored it altogether. It’s a shame as Jennifer’s Body is actually a hell of a lot of sexy, scary, and…dare I say…sassy fun.
Jennifer Check (Fox) is a gorgeous, popular, and the object of every man’s affection while “Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried) is, well…not. Still, they are lifelong BFF’s, and, in the backwater town of Devil’s Kettle, that’s got to count for something. When a Low Shoulder, a popular indie rock band from city, comes to play in town, Jennifer drags Needy to the show, hoping to score some face time with the band’s handsome singer, Nikolai (Adam Brody). When the band breaks into its opening number, Jennifer is seemingly hypnotized by the music as a fire breaks out in the bar (eerily reminiscent of the “Station Fire” in RI, which, in my neck of the woods, still features on the local news). As the place burns down around them, Jennifer and Needy escape through the bathroom window, where Nikolai awaits, and offers to take Jennifer home. Jennifer, still dazed, goes along with him despite Needy’s protests, and Nikolai drags her off into the band’s van, leaving Needy alone in the parking lot.
Worried about her friend, Needy rushes home only to find that Jennifer is there waiting for her, battered, bruised, and covered in blood. Needy tries to help her, but Jennifer growls at her, devours a whole chicken, and then vomits an oily substance all over Needy’s floor before fleeing off into the night. The next day, as the town reels from the loss of several of its citizens in the fire, Jennifer arrives at school looking more ravishing than ever, and acting exceptionally chipper in spite of the recent tragedy. Needy confronts her about the night before, and asks her what happened when she left with Nikolai and his bandmates. Jennifer shrugs it off as if nothing happened, and assures Needy that she’s overreacting, however, moments later, we see that the events of the prior evening did, in fact, have an effect on Jennifer, as she lures one of her male classmates off into the woods, and tears him limb from limb. As the man-eating Jennifer chows down the local boys, Needy has to find a way to stop her BFF before her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), is the next item on Jennifer’s menu.
Jennifer’s Body is a smarter-than-average teen-horror flick that boasts a surprising amount of gore and genuine scares and carefully balances them with laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, and even a hint of John Hughes-style pathos. This is also one hell sexy flick, with the white hot Fox and her equally attractive co-star, Seyfried, engaging in an onscreen kiss that’ll have even the most jaded male viewers feeling hot under the collar. While Seyfried’s a proven talent (she’s one of the highlights of HBO’s “Big Love”), I had my doubts about Fox’s acting prowess, but it turns out she’s quite a solid young actress in her own right. While playing sexy is, admittedly, not much of a stretch for the girl, she also shows she can do vulnerable, frightened, and downright scary. While Jennifer is a hottie, she’s also a bastion of insecurity, and, when Fox lets that side of her show, she comes off as downright mortal. She’s not going to win any awards for her performance, here, but at least she proves she’s capable of more than just bending over things seductively in Daisy Dukes.
Diablo Cody fans will certainly appreciate much of Jennifer’s colorful dialogue (ie; “It smells like Thai food in here. Have you two been Phuking?”), but non-fans will also appreciate the fact that Cody seems much more restrained here than with her Juno screenplay. There are still a few groaners and po-culture references that will have audiences scratching their heads in five years, but no more so than the average Kevin Smith vehicle.
Perhaps lost in all of the hoopla surrounding the film’s star and its writer is the fact that Jennifer’s Body also serves as the feature debut for director, Karyn Kusama. Kusama lends the film a lush, atmospheric look and style that harkens back to the polished teen horror flicks of the mid-nineties and is a breath of fresh air when compared to the puke-green aesthete of the torture porn era.
The Blu-ray from Fox sports a vibrant and crisp 1.85:1 1080p transfer that boasts sharp detail, solid color saturation, and bold contrast. As mentioned before, Jennifer’s Body eschews the desaturated look of recent horror flicks and embraces a much more colorful aesthetic, resulting in an image that is a joy to behold. Daylight sequences offer bright, vivid exteriors awash in golden sun, interiors are candy-colored and inviting, while night sequences are perfectly balanced with hues of moonlight blue and deep, velvety blacks. It’s a very nice transfer that’s enhanced by an equally impressive 5.1 DTS HD track that roars with sonic intensity when the action calls for it, but is just as adept at establishing quiet tension in setting up the films scares. While I did have a few issues with the levels of the music and dialogue, they are minor and only of importance if watching the film at low volumes (ie; when your 15 month old is sleeping after a particularly fussy day).
Bonus features include a very enlightening and entertaining commentary by Cody and Kusama, as well as a solo commentary by Kusama. Other features include the short behind-the-scenes doco, Jennifer’s Body: The Dead Pool (HD); a Q&A feature entitled Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School with Diablo Cody (SD), video diaries (HD), a short gag reel (SD), deleted scenes (HD), and more. The set also features a bonus DVD with Digital Copy for playback on portable media devices.
While I can only speculate at the reasons as to why Jennifer’s Body failed at the box-office, I hope viewers give this highly enjoyable horror/comedy a second chance now that it comes to home as Megan Fox proves she can carry a film, Diablo Cody proves she’s more than just a one-trick-pony, and director, Karyn Kusama, offers a glimpse of a burgeoning talent who I hope to see more from in the near future. Smart, sexy, and surprisingly scary, Jennifer’s Body is an unexpected treat, and Fox’s excellent Blu-ray presentation boasts excellent sound and picture and enough extra goodies to make it well worth adding to your horror/comedy collection.