“Every day I get letters. I think I get more letters than Santa Claus, Zac Efron, and Dr. Phil combined. I’m kinda the shit. Sometimes the letters are from people who say they are praying for me. They tell me everything will be OK if I just accept Jesus Christ into my heart. I say the words, but nothing ever happens. Nobody comes back. Nobody gets off the cross.”
There hasn’t been this much hype for a mainstream horror film in quite a long time that I can recollect. Certainly, quite a few have created more buzz after their release and subsequent box office power. But this one was supposed to be the real deal. It didn’t hurt that the titular body in question would belong to Megan Fox. With the huge dominance of the Transformers films at movie theaters across the globe, Fox has had a lot of … eh … exposure over the last couple of years. She’s made a ton of those “sexiest” polls, and combined with this somewhat provocative title, I’m sure there were expectations of, at least, reasonably large draw. Unfortunately, it just never happened. The film barely made back its modest $16 million budget.
So, what if anything went wrong? Unfortunately, the hype was somewhat misplaced. First of all, Fox is hardly recognizable as the same girl from the Transformers films, and I’m not talking about the eventual creature add-ons. Her dark hair offsets her familiar look quite startlingly. She is also at that stage in her life where just a year or two makes a huge difference on her facial looks. Anyone attending this film merely to get a look at Fox’s body will be in for a huge disappointment. Move along, because there is literally nothing to see here. What the film should have tried to base its hype on was the fact that it’s a solid thriller with an interesting story and character dynamic. I’m not saying that we haven’t seen a lot of it before. But the end result is a lot fresher than what comes to my local movie houses and DVD houses on an all too regular basis.
This film does not rely so heavily on the Hollywood Horror Standards of blood and sex. The kills have enough graphic style to get the point across but are never over the top. There really aren’t a lot of teens slipping between the sheets here at all. Jennifer is trying to seduce her victims, but she doesn’t ever get as far as we’re used to seeing before she transforms and devours. The makeup creature effects are actually pretty cool.
Greg Nicotero never disappoints, and this film is no exception. The creature design is a mix of CG and makeup effects. The result is a flawless and creepy look. Set all of this against a pretty bad script by Diablo Cody, and you really have to hand it to the filmmakers for making something out of nothing here.
“Welcome to mental Olympics. They’re big on recreation here. Supposedly, it helps us vent our aggressions. Personally, I think they’re trying to wear us out, keep us sluggish so there won’t be an uprising. Well, those JV tactics won’t work against me. I’m a kicker. It even says so on my chart.”
In spite of the title, the story is told from the perspective of Needy (Seyfried). Needy has been Jennifer’s (Fox) best friend since they were old enough to crawl. As they’ve matured, there is evidence that they are growing apart. Still, on the surface at least, they have managed to keep the friendship together. But Jennifer is the attractive social butterfly, while Needy is more the awkward nerdy girl. One day the two go to a roadhouse club to see an up-and-coming rock band perform. The club ends up burning to the ground, killing many of the party goers. Needy and Jennifer manage to escape unharmed, but Jennifer is quickly whisked away in a van by the band members. When Needy sees Jennifer next, she is covered in blood and ravenous, devastating the contents of her refrigerator like a savage beast. The gorging causes Jennifer to vomit a strange black liquid that appears to be animated much as the black parasite in the third Spider-Man film. More importantly, Jennifer has changed. It doesn’t take Needy long to figure out that something happened to her friend and she is now possessed by a powerful demon who must feed on humans to retain its strength. Jennifer begins to seduce and eat the boys from the local high school, while Needy tracks down the band and discovers what really happened that night.
The girls both do a great job in their respective parts. I’m impressed that not only was Amanda Seyfried able to hold her own against Megan Fox, I think she might have outperformed her. She really is the focus of the film. The fact that she could pull something like that off against a rather strong-headed Fox is a pretty good indicator of the chops she has. They both have to contend with some of the most ridiculous dialog I’ve ever heard. Cody just doesn’t have a clue. In her world, girls are all still talking and acting like spoiled valley girls. There isn’t a cliché that Cody hasn’t fallen in love with and used to death. If this film has a flaw at all, it’s Cody’s unimaginative writing style.
There’s a rather amusing role in the film for Spider-Man and Law & Order favorite J.K. Simmons. He has hair, but is missing a hand. The hairy claw-handed teacher is a bit of comedy relief for the film, but it sure looks like Simmons was having a lot of fun with the part.
Jennifer’s Body is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average 28 mbps. This is a solid high definition release in almost every way. Black levels are incredibly deep with some outstanding shadow definition. Combined with solid contrast, this film delivers the late night chills. Colors manage to rip through the otherwise incredibly dark tone of the film. Fox wears a red dress for part of the film that is almost as if it were a light source all of its own. The color just grabs you and focuses your attention. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how this film looks. There is a realistic texture to the film that sucks you right into the piece. You should not find even the slightest thing to complain about in this video presentation.
The DTS-HD Master audio is also quite impressive here. Subs deliver incredible booming depths when called for. The dialog is always quite clear even though much of it is softly spoken. I did find fault with the rock soundtrack. There are far too many moments when it comes across too strong, taking away any of that immersive feeling I was starting to settle into. The loud tracks don’t really fit the mood of the film and only serve as a monumental distraction.
Depending on which version of the film you decide to watch, there are two Audio Commentaries to be found. I did not opt to watch the theatrical cut of the film, which features a commentary by director Karyn Kusama and Cody. On the unrated cut you get a scene specific commentary by the director only. I can’t imagine you could miss much with the absence of Cody. In fact, that gives you just one more reason to watch the unrated cut. There is dead air here as Kusama does not actually talk through all of the film. This commentary really just deals with the differences in the two versions of the film.
This is another one of those terrible eco-boxes that will do little to actually protect your disc. There is also a digital copy of the film made available. You get the theatrical and unrated versions of the film. The unrated clocks in with about 5 minutes longer running time.
Deleted Scenes: (13:55) HD There are 6 to pick from, or you can use the handy play all option. These are mostly expanded scenes with an alternate ending, of sorts.
Gag Reel (4:55) SD This is an odd presentation. It appears to be taken from a convention appearance.
Jennifer’s Body – The Dead Pool: (14:00) HD The piece examines the two main characters and their relationship. You get a lot of Cody’s terrible one-liners from the film itself. Much of the feature deals with the pool set and takes you behind the scenes with the cast and crew working in the murky pool. You get to see Fox’s stunt double with a green screen in her mouth.
Video Diaries: (12:51) HD Many of the cast and crew were given time on set with a camcorder to fool around. Here you can choose from Megan Fox/Johnny Simmons, Amanda Seyfried, Diablo Cody, or Dan Dubriecki. There is a handy play all option.
Megan Fox Is Hot: (:56) HD Just shots of the actress in a musical montage.
Megan Fox Peer Pressure PSA: (:40) SD A public service announcement that features Fox telling kids to be themselves, even if that means turning into a monster and eating your boyfriends.
Fox Movie Channel Presents – Life After Film School: (26:26) SD Diablo Cody is interviewed by film students for this television show.
This is a movie that quite rightly deserves more than it has been given by critics and moviegoers. There’s a lot to hate about this film, to be sure. I’ve said it already, but Cody can’t write herself out of a paper bag. But there is also a lot to enjoy about this film. The performances are quite good. The creature stuff is a lot of scary fun, and the production values are much higher than most horror films get these days. The end result is a rent it recommendation. Just don’t let all of the negative press keep you from at least sampling the film. Good or bad? Me? “I go both ways.”