For all its flaws, lapses in good judgment and good taste, Jennifer's Body is a movie that gets it. Playing with the notion of hot chick as maneater, and reminding millions of teenage girls of the sexual power they may not even realize they have, it's a feminist statement wrapped in gory violence and gratuitous glamour shots of Megan Fox. It's not nearly as clever or entertaining or fresh as it had every right to be, but it's an entry into the high school horror genre that deserves its own consideration.
The smarts obviously begin with screenwriter Diablo Cody, who brings back her notorious hip dialogue mostly through the character of Jennifer (Megan Fox), the kind of popular girl who hangs out with a geek like Needy (Amanda Seyfried) to prop herself up and deliver scathing putdowns ("You need a mani bad. You should find a Chinese chick to buff your situation.") Casting those two actresses is the film's other major stroke of genius, with Seyfried playing down her baby-doll looks to be the kind of girl who puts up with the bossy best friend, and Fox using every bit of the persona she's cultivated over the last few years to become only a slightly exaggerated version of the teen girl monster we all knew.
Slightly exaggerated because, well, Jennifer is a cannibal, thanks to a botched sacrifice to Satan executed by local emo band Low Shoulder. Jennifer has a crush on the lead singer (an eyelinered, quite funny Adam Brody) and drags Needy to a show at the local roadhouse, where a massive fire inexplicably erupts and, for unrelated reasons, Jennifer is carted off in the band's van to serve as a virgin sacrifice. Of course, she's no virgin, and returns later that night in Needy's house covered in blood, hungry for meat, and ready to destroy the next teen boy she sees.
Needy, with a little help from her puppydog boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons), puts it upon herself to stop Jennifer. We know thanks to a prologue that she lands in the mental asylum after all this, prepping us to watch her transform from wallflower girl to power-kicking badass. Unfortunately what we get is closer to a string of either tense scenes or funny scenes, topped by an inevitable conflict between Needy and Jennifer that would be tremendous if it didn't all feel so unearned. Like the fire that pops up out of nowhere, or the unrealistically retro dress Needy sports at prom, most elements of Jennifer's Body seem like unrelated bits tossed in to serve either the story or the comedy, but rarely both at the same time.
Part of the problem is that Cody's script, for all its clever subtext and zippy lines, only sticks to the status quo of horror plotting, never giving the story the subversive zing the more comedic moments promise. And director Karyn Kusama is great at capturing the nuanced relationship between the two girls and letting the funny lines sing, but stages every horror moment as the same old "walking down a shadowy hallway" gambit. Even when the horror scenes come with lines like "Nice hardware, Ace," they don't feel much different than the wisecracks Freddy Krueger might make.
It's disappointing that the best aspects of Jennifer's Body--the subversive take on female sexuality, the parody of the public mourning that happens after a tragedy-- are left to simmer under the surface. The audiences who show up to see Fox's cleavage may come up with some bloodlust sated and a newfound appreciation for her ability to read actual dialogue (though I'm still not convinced she understood half of what she said), but they probably won't consider the ideas, however goofy, that Cody tried to slip in there.
But still, the brains are there, and even if Jennifer's Body turned out a little muddled and lifeless in parts, it's a good thing that it's out there at all. Guys may come out of it with their hots for Megan Fox tinged with a little fear, but girls may just realize they've got that power in all of them-- if maybe not the appetite for blood.