Friday, September 18, 2009
Movie review: Jennifer’s Body
If I said it was a beautiful movie, would you hold it against me?
Because -- there's just no getting around it -- in the title role of this flick, she comes across star quality all the way. Putting on the varsity moves, as her character Jennifer might say. (And -- you know -- smokin' hot.)
Jennifer's Body, in fact, turns out to be one enormously smart and stylish entertainment, with large kudos due to scripter Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama. For her part, Cody keeps the dialog snappy, witty, and hysterically profane; while Kusama (with cinematographer M. David Mullen at her command) unleashes some gorgeous wide shot tableaux that serve to flavor this claustrophobic small-town nightmare with an unexpected universality.
Cutting right to the chase: this is the hippest, most wildly entertaining horror movie I've seen in a long, long time. Its blend of smirky humor and genuinely scarifying chills bring to mind films of a similar vein which have succeeded in maintaining the creepy quotient while simultaneously eliciting laughter. (Albeit of an edgy, nervous variety.)
Fox is not the only cast member threatening to burn up the screen, either. Her co-star, Amanda Seyfried (as Jennifer's "best friend forever" Needy), plays -- um -- straight person to Jennifer's demonically-possessed one, with the narrative being told from her point of view. Just don't take that "straight" characterization too far, as these BFsF share a torrid embrace about midway into the film. (OOPS! After-the-fact spoiler alert!) The filmmakers have done all they can through wardrobe and props (i.e., horn rimmed glasses) to make Needy appear mousy and bookish, but it's tough to camouflage such underlying babeitude. If they were really wanting someone plain looking, they should have signed a different actress.
Outstanding supporting players include J.K. Simmons as high school teacher Mr. Wroblewski (here essaying a sort of mangled Norwegian bachelor farmer accent); Adam Brody as Nikolai, lead singer of struggling indie band Low Shoulder; Kyle Gallner as mild-mannered goth guy Colin; and Johnny Simmons, doing a great job as the nice young man caught between two very forceful female personalities on the eve of destruction.
The little burg of Devil's Kettle doesn't have much going for it in the thrills department. Aside from the high school Devils football games and the mysterious sinkhole below the waterfall outside of town, there's nothing much to distinguish DK from myriad other municipalities that have been bypassed by the Interstate -- and thereby doomed to obscurity.
This all changes when a big city rock band announces their one-night gig at a run-down roadhouse on the edge of town. School hottie Jennifer just HAS to make it out to see "Low Shoulder" in performance; she's particularly looking forward to getting a feel for the musicianship (ahem) of lead singer Nikolai, who wears eyeliner on stage and thus, with one sable stroke, trumps the coolness factor of hometown boys. (Guess Colin hasn't made it onto Jennifer's radar. Yet.)
Not being one to leave her gal pal out of the fun, Jennifer persuades Needy to tag along -- even though Needy and her boyfriend Chip have already made a study date (subject: anatomy).
To summarize succeeding events, all Hell breaks loose after fire breaks out at Melody Lane (the ex-roadhouse), and Jennifer is spirited away in the band's van while Needy looks on impotently from the smoky sidelines, certain that her friend is in deadly danger.
From this point forward, there's something clearly off about Jennifer. Needy notices it immediately upon her return later that night. Perhaps it's the voluminous stream of spiky black goo that emits from her mouth; perhaps it's her bloodstained teeth and clothing; for sure it's the dead-evil, bottomless-pit glare she bestows upon her terrified best friend as she pins her against the kitchen sink. (This is without doubt one of the most haunting visages seen on film since Linda Blair's indelible Excorcist turn.)
The rest amounts to a series of increasingly revelatory incidents marked by:
* Jennifer's periodic need for satiation, and the damages incurred by her body in the wasting interim;
* Needy's researches (a la Buffy) into the possible cause of her friend's transformation; and
* The town's (in particular the school's) reaction to the series of bloody murders which plague the population. (Think more "sheep to the slaughter" than "angry villagers with torches.")
The climax comes in the form of an epic confrontation at a disused natatorium on a hill overlooking the school. It's the night of the big Spring Formal, and two of the celebrants are about to make mincemeat of their party dresses. (Hope they're not rented.)
FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE: "There's a showing of Rocky Horror at the Bijou." - Colin (Kyle Gallner) to Jennifer, hopefully
"I don't like boxing movies." - Jennifer's reply
HOLD THE NOODLES: "It smells like Thai food in here. Have you two been f**king?" - Jennifer, to Needy and Chip
TIME FOR A NEW PLATE!: "The dance! It'll be like an all-you-can-eat buffet!" - Needy, to Chip
NO, NOT THAT BOWIE: "Cool! A Bowie knife!" - Low Shoulder band member, to Nikolai