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Lady Pam De GraffJENNIFER'S BODY (2009)
Written by: Diablo Cody
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Featuring: Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Johnny Simmons Adam Brody, Amy Sedaris and Lance Heriksen
GENRE: HORROR-BLACK COMEDY
TAGS: cross-genre occult-fantasy

"RATING: 7 PINTS OF BLOOD (out of a possible 10)

PLOT: The cheerleader you hated in high school becomes a succubus, then begins disemboweling and devouring conformist male classmates. Better than it sounds!

COMMENTS: When an occultist garage band tries to sacrifice the local popular girl, they anticipate that Satan will reward them with fame and success. But when they botch the job, she becomes possessed by a hungry demon. Jennifer (Fox) begins hunting and eating her classmates, starting with the horny, swaggering captain of the football team.

Jennifer's nerdy best friend "Needy" (Seyfreid) quickly deduces that Jennifer is no longer quite herself when she vomits blood, body parts, and concentrated evil all over her kitchen floor. Delving into some occult research for answers and methods, Needy hatches a frantic, desperate scheme to stop Jennifer before she and her boyfriend wind up as Jennifer's next meal. The bodies pile up, and Jennifer's Bodylampoons a plethora of trite social attitudes and superficial cultural values along the way.

Although it was filmed in Vancouver and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, Jennifer's Body is not quite a Canadian, or independent film. 20th Century Fox's Fox Atomic bought the script and distributed the finished picture, but the movie has that sort of arty, non-mainstream feel. Misunderstood at the box office, Jennifer's Body was badly marketed to a teen audience by profit-minded executives who weren't quite sure what to make of the effort.

Jennifer's Body is a genre-bender. It presents occult, horror, and fantasy elements, but it is mainly a comedy. The film's cross-genre footprint has confused audiences who were instructed by previews to expect a slasher teen horror movie.

This commercial misrepresentation seems to have caused many critics a fair bit of consternation, and resulted in misguided reviews. They charge that the film cannot "find itself," or they complain that it is not scary enough to be a horror movie, and not funny enough to be a comedy.

Well poop on all of them.

 

While the humor is light and sometimes subtle, I think Jennifer's Body is a solid black comedy. I suspect a lot of reviewers just didn't get, or didn't like the jokes.

I hear the same complaints about nearly every genre-bender. I like genre-benders, and so should you. A genre-bender is simply a different kind of movie, one which can offer a unique viewing experience that is in a class by itself.

Cross-genre material provides a good vehicle for exploiting the expressive potential of film. Movies are capable of providing a multitude of different viewing experiences and there's no hard and fast rule dictating that they should be constrained by formulas. If handled skillfully, genre-benders will provide superior entertainment when they make you think, make you laugh, and tickle your fancy for horror at the same time. Jennifer's Body is a good example.

I have noticed that most of the critics who complain that Jennifer's Body "can't find itself" wore the knees out of their pants kneeling at the altar of movies such as Fright Night, and The Frighteners. Both are likewise horror-comedies, but I thought their built-in accessibility to mainstream audiences put them on the pedestrian side of the spectrum. Because Jennifer's Body is a little more sophisticated, I think it deserves more consideration.

Do be forewarned that Jennifer's Body is not a gut-buster of slapstick humor, nor is it an ingenious satire, but it has its moments. It's a witty, light parody of contemporary social superficiality. The picture also comments on slasher movies. Like Scream, Jennifer's Body pokes some fun at the commercial horror genre, but rather than make fun of teen horror movies themselves, Jennifer's Body lampoons the values of teen slasher movie audiences. Finding oneself the butt of a joke when going to see a movie might make some theater-goers uncomfortable, especially if they weren't expecting it. Since Fox Atomic worked hard to sell Jennifer's Body to a teen, rather than an independent film audience, this would explain any lackluster word of mouth the film has received.

Thinking viewers, don't despair. If the jocks in high school made you squirm, if you thought the guidance counselors were sanctimonious, and you scratch your head at the prevalence of candle-light vigils, you will like the jokes in Jennifer's Body. If you gag at mass grief counseling when the drunk driving, football team captain crashes his hotrod on prom night, if you get tired of yuppie yellow ribbon culture and it's catch phrases such as "healing!" or its penchant for songs like "We Are The World," then you are sure to appreciate the kind of black humor featured in this film.

Jennifer's Body was written by quirky Juno scribe, Diablo Cody, (who makes a couple of comical appearances in the movie.) The film exemplifies her trademark unconventionalism.

Misguided critics, the kind of knee-jerkers who condemn independent films by default, have made some unfounded jibes at Jennifer's Body and I want to dispel a few. One misconception is that the film was written merely to be a vehicle for Megan Fox. Her casting followed the script, and not the other way around. The story calls for a vamp character, and well, who better to fill that part?

Contrary to charges, Jennifer's Body is not "another teen film," despite the fact that the story takes place in that world. Neither is it a female empowerment film, nor does it appear that Diablo Cody had such an agenda in writing the story.

Some reviewers have complained that the dialogue is too flippant and glib. Actually it is a parody of the contemporary teen vernacular. It works. It's funny!

I should note that the title is tantalizingly deceptive. Occultists literally use Jennifer's Body for a sacrificial ritual, but we don't get to see much of it -not naked anyway. There is no nudity in the film. Zilch. Sorry guys!

On the positive side, there is also not any condescending, Spielberg-ish stylization, or a reliance on gross-out humor as in Drag Me To Hell. Refreshingly, perhaps because Jennifer's Body was filmed in Vancouver under 20th Century Fox's quirky 'Fox Atomic' label, one that specializes in less-than-mainstream fare, the movie is also relatively free of that trite, here-we-go-again feeling of typical Tinseltown clichés and contrivances.

To the movie's credit, Amanda Seyfried delivers a solid performance as Jennifer's bookworm pal, and Megan Fox is believable as the vamp of course, (failure in that role is not an option for her.) There are brief appearances by character actress Amy Sedaris, who delivers a command piece of acting, and horror movie veteran Lance Hernriksen, who is always fun to watch. Best of all, the movie has a delightfully colorful production design and in several scenes, an almost psychedelic visual signature.

Jennifer's Body is well made and worth seeing despite being mismarketed. While perplexed critics unfairly gave the film a "bad rap" with their dour reviews, you should not let this sway you. If you did not go to see Jennifer's Body at the theater and you enjoy black comedy/horror, by all means, take a peak at it on DVD.

 

 

 

You can also stream this movie on Amazon Prime.


Lady Pam De GraffVANISHING ON 7th STREET (2010)

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Jaswinski
DIRECTED BY: Brad Anderson
FEATURING: Hayden Christensen. Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, and Jordan Trovillion
GENRE: HORROR
RATING: 5 PINTS OF BLOOD (out of a possible 10)

PLOT: Several people take refuge in a city tavern when Detroit is inexplicably plunged into darkness, with nearly the entire population mysteriously vanished.

COMMENTS: I just saw Vanishing On 7th Street!

Something unknown has struck the city of Detroit. Something just ... well just awful! All the lights have gone out, but batteries, small generators, and solar cells still work. Except that capacitor function is mysteriously waning and there is dramatically less and less sunlight every day.

More disturbing is that nearly everyone has suddenly vanished into thin air leaving only clothing and synthetic personal effects behind, such as eyeglasses, pacemakers and false teeth. Suits and other attire lie empty, still bearing the shapes of the people who were wearing them, right where they stood or sat when they disappeared. Driver-less vehicles careen into obstacles and un-piloted planes fall from the sky.

 

A brightly lit bar on 7th Street that is still powered thanks to a backup generator draws several people who survived the vanishing. It seems to be the only reserve generator still running, and it is starting to die despite adequate fuel.

What is this inky blackness that is spreading like a kerosene slick, slithering out of cracks and crevices, creeping up from grates, and oozing into open spaces where it devours people?

Vanishing On 7th Street has a lot of potential, but the filmmakers made the characters very "accessible." They behave irrationally and it is hard to have empathy for them. This is not the fault of the actors who are all deliver competent performances.

 

A lot of film time that could be devoted to exploring the vanishing phenomenon and to other, even scarier scenarios is wasted with senseless action, bickering and people waxing maudlin. The survivors spend a lot of time arguing and doing very stupid, counterproductive things.

Disappointingly, they fail to do the obvious. Despite the fact that light is protecting them from it, it never occurs to them to build a raging bonfire. Desperately scavenging old batteries, they never have a flash of insight to raid the Duracell racks at the nearest Walgreens.  One day I would like to see brighter, more pragmatic people being challenged in a horror movie.

 

 

On the other hand, if something really happened such as what we see depicted in Vanishing On 7th Street, the film's participants would probably be typical given a cross section of the population I observe daily who cannot complete a simple ATM transaction in under 15 minutes. Perhaps merit in the choice of characters depends upon whether one expects good drama or fictional "documentary."

The story in Vanishing has a few plot holes, but the basic idea is good and creepy. Despite wishing I had a fast forward button handy at times, the film kept my attention and gave me goosebumps.

You may not find Vanishing On 7th Street to be the most thoughtful horror movie you have ever seen but it is still fun. It is worth a peak for any but the most discriminating horror fans. I give it 5 pints of blood out of a possible 10.

 

 

 

You can stream this movie on Amazon Prime!



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