Jennifer's Body, the new horror film directed by Karyn Kusama, is at once better than one might expect a movie anchored by Megan Fox could be and far more cowardly than a movie about a rampaging sex-bomb-turned-succubus should be. It is, as the marketing campaign has emphasized, the second film written by Diablo Cody, the screenwriter who incurred wrath not fit for Stalin upon her Oscar win for Juno in 2007. Given that film's ultimate reception and seeing as it features Fox engaging in a girl-on-girl make-out session with co-star Amanda Seyfried, Body's success is all but preordained. Article continues below
Like Juno, Body is ostensibly about an odd teenager with a slightly more popular best friend. Needy (Seyfried) has been totally BFFs with Jennifer (Fox) since they were little; "Sandbox love is forever," Needy quips to her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons). This quasi-platonic friendship hits a rough patch when Jennifer flees a local tragedy and takes up with a demonic indie band for a night, showing up at Needy's doorstep later covered in blood and spewing black bile. Needy is traumatized but Jennifer shows up the next day with midriff and lip gloss intact and a newfound need for male organs; the ones underneath the flesh rather than the one behind the boxers, for clarification.
Boys begin to turn up ripped in half, organs pillaged, and it's not long before Needy fears that her darling Chip might be next on the menu. He might as well be, seeing as neither he nor any other members of the XY pack have any sort of character definition. This would seem to be Cody and Kusama's point, partially: Turn the male "heroes" into the live bait that women are so often reduced to in the horror genre. But then both Jennifer and Needy are thinly composed creations as well, distinguished only by supernatural powers and a make-out scene that would drive any male teen without internet access go wild. When she's not chowing down on some boy's pancreas, Jennifer is just another queen bitch; when Needy isn't levitating, she's just another gorgeous geek made plain by a pair of glasses.
Cody's script is steeped in the same distorted teen jargon that her reputation was built on, but the self-conscious slang seems far more noticeable here. Words like "freaktarded" and "wetties" land with the subtlety of a hydrogen bomb, and it often feels as if the script is simply speeding towards its next "it" word. It certainly makes it easier to blame Cody for this misfire, but the film is as much a failure of production as scripting. Directed with more verve than the usual pedestrian "horror" film, Jennifer's Body nevertheless relies on the same shock scenarios, castrated carnality, and faux nudity that every other film it openly mocks does.
That the film is completely aware of its own absurdity is its one meager saving grace. Cultural epitomes ranging from 9/11 to MySpace to indie rock -- the evil band, lead by Adam Brody, is a blatant parody of the Killers -- are exhausted and exhausting, but this messy magpie's nest revels in its pseudo-incivility, even if it never summons the courage or know-how to actually test those boundaries. Rather, as both the poster and title promise, Cody and Kusama find a certain dim-witted righteousness in the act of simply teasing the prospect of Fox's pleasing aesthetic, leaving Jennifer's Body about as formidable and entertaining as a case of blue balls.