When it comes to discussing favorite horror movies, it’s normal to hear titles like Psycho, Halloween, and Friday the 13th as part of the conversation. But, rarely do you hear modern, more contemporary films thrown out there. This is why I often get some raised eyebrows or the occasional eye roll when confessing that Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body is my favorite horror movie (It’s a close race between that and Scream).
Released nearly fifteen-years ago, Jennifer’s Body is the story of high school queen bee Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) who becomes possessed by a literal demon ( a succubus to be exact). She develops an appetite for human flesh and begins hunting the boys at school. This results in her usually timid friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) stepping up to put an end to the bloodshed.
On the surface, it seems like a run-of-the-mill possession flick, right? Maybe. Even tied up in a series of fun tropes Jennifer’s Body wasn’t well received by fans and wasn’t met with particularly positive reviews. Unfortunately, it was written off as a trashy teen flick with its only real strength being Megan Fox. This is a travesty, as this underrated movie was ahead of its time and undoubtedly would have been more successful if it was released today.
The film’s dark though witty humor is enough to earn it ‘cult classic’ status. On top of that, it cleverly takes jab after jab at the helpless, last girl standing scenario. Zimbo.com’s Areeba Abid put it perfectly in a 2018 article “…Jennifer’s Body is less primordial and more feminist than some critics and audiences might consider. In it, the two women don’t run away from danger — they step up to it.” It’s feminism presented in the best way possible; unapologetic as hell.
The movie was ahead of its time in more ways than one. First of all, Jennifer–you know, the villain that everyone is supposed to hate–acts as an unconventional icon by impenitently expressing her sexuality. Not only in how she dresses but in how she talks and, obviously, how she acts around boys she’s interested in. Long before her satanic run in, Jennifer was already a man-eater, in the sense she often would date guys out of boredom or to gain something and toss them to the side when the next best thing came along. And the weird part? Most of the guys seemed okay with this self-obsessed dynamic. Even if they weren’t, it wasn’t like they could really do anything about it. Jennifer is one of the most popular girls in school, after all. This cycle follows Jennifer into her devilish transformation with the major difference being that she needs to feed on the boys (who have already dehumanized her) in order to remain alive. They are literally side pieces or pawns in Jennifer’s overall and surprisingly human plan of not hurting Needy. And, let’s be honest, watching someone become a snack while maggot rock plays in the background is pretty funny.
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Meanwhile, in the midst of all the flesh eating, Jennifer and Needy’s relationship is what gives this movie an extra edge. The film’s marketing relied heavily on that infamous make out scene between Jennifer and Needy. But that was just the tip of the iceberg of an already tense relationship. The audience gets a realistic look at how some friendships actually are for women. They have one of those passive aggressive, intense and codependent friendships that young women often experience. Being around Jennifer is like walking on eggshells at times; she will say one thing when it really means another. And she goes out of her way to embarrass Needy in public or in front of her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) and often gets aggressive with her. Like, physically aggressive.
It’s a textbook example of a “love hate relationship”. So it’s fitting that their friendship ends in a fight to the death that didn’t just stop Jennifer’s reign of terror but made a point: Needy doesn’t need Jennifer, hence the nickname. In fact, it was Jennifer who needed Needy the whole time as the very structure of her booming self confidence relied on Needy’s constant approval and willingness to not question her friend.
Yes, noticing the brilliance of Jennifer’s Body requires looking at a lot of subtext. A closer look might confirm that this movie isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Which is fine as no movie ever is. It isn’t really scary in any traditional sense and that could be why critic after critic labeled as boring. Again, that’s a shame. As Wicked Horror’s own Nat Brehmer puts it “It’s Mean Girls meets Evil Dead with a healthy dose of Heathers thrown in.” What more could one possibly want in a movie? Do yourself a favor, give it a watch especially if it’s been a while. You might be surprised.