When Jennifer’s Body hit theaters in September 2009, the horror comedy passed quietly and deadly into the night. It was the least successful new release of the weekend that included animated comedy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! and rom-com Love Happens and whimpered against poor reviews and audience reception. It was dead on arrival. Yet over a decade later, the Megan Fox flick is a beloved cult classic. If you’ve yet to dive back into this campy bloodbath, it’s time to add it to this year’s Halloween season watchlist because its revival is totally earned.
Jennifer’s Body stars Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried as best friends Jennifer and Needy with different social statuses at their high school, but still inseparable. Fox’s Jennifer is a flirty high school cheerleader who calls herself “not even a backdoor-virgin anymore.” A more bumbling Needy tags along to see an indie band Jennifer’s been following. However the pair get separated when an inebriated Jennifer gets into the band’s van and Needy is left concerned for her. What follows is a hilariously clever horror movie that you should definitely revisit.
You’ll Get Why It’s Been Hailed A Cult Classic
Even though it originally flopped, if you look closer at Jennifer’s Body itself, it had all the makings of being a favorite. The movie was written by Juno’s Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama, who has since gone on to make another underrated horror film, 2015’s The Invitation. It’s one of the few studio horror films out there to not only have two women behind it, but two talents with distinct voices who delivered something completely original at the time, yet was overlooked. And to put the movie in context, 2009 was an interesting year for horror, with a couple more gems like Zombieland and Orphan, but the narrative around the genre was more so linked to a number of tired franchise failures for Saw, Final Destination and Friday the 13th as well.
So at the time, the general feelings about a movie like Jennifer’s Body, just from a genre point of view, even before giving it a chance was exhaustion for movie fans. We’d seen too many flimsy slashers and that’s what it looked like it was. But nowadays, horror is coveted again. There’s a lot of different, more elevated horror movies, including fun campy horror comedies like Happy Death Day, Ready or Not or The Babysitter that make a movie like Jennifer’s Body cool again because they pulled off what it did years prior. And over ten years later, Jennifer’s Body is very much up to par with these offbeat slashers that have since been released and become popular in the past five years.
It’s Megan Fox’s Favorite Role Yet (And Her Best)
Megan Fox has been seeing a bit of an exciting resurgence as of late, between being couple goals with Machine Gun Kelly or signing up for a number of projects including the next Expendables movie and a Netflix vampire comedy. Amidst all that, it’s all about Jennifer’s Body more so nowadays than before whenever her name is dropped. Earlier this year, the actress shared how “surprised” she is with how much the movie’s popularity has grown as of late to WhoWhatWear. She said it’s still her “favorite project” she’s ever worked on.
Fox’s love for Jennifer’s Body makes so much sense, because to this day it’s her best role. The movie’s narrative around the treatment of young women goes hand-in-hand with the treatment of the actress since starring in Transformers at the age of 21. She’s always been craved and envied for her appearance, but Jennifer’s Body allowed the actress to tell a story through female eyes and with a purpose of calling out our own society’s tendency toward sexualization. Fox perfectly balances some comedic beats, with her effortlessly cool confidence with a character that runs much deeper than her bold fashion choices.
The Entire Jennifer’s Body Cast Is A Dream
Also, we have to take a minute and look at the supporting cast alongside Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. The OC’s Adam Brody takes on the villainous role of the lead singer of the indie band Low Shoulder, Amy Sedaris steals her few scenes as Needy’s mother, J.K. Simmons plays one of their high school teachers. A yet-to-be-famous Chris Pratt can be found in the dive bar sequence early in the film. It’s a blast to see these actors take on these roles and they were expertly cast.
Jennifer’s Body Was Scary Ahead Of Its Time
Not only was Jennifer’s Body not treasured back in 2009 due to where the genre was, it was also discussing themes that were completely out of left field back then and misunderstood in the context of the larger culture. In the movie, Jennifer is abducted by a group of men for a satanic ritual to forward their own goals and as a result becomes a succubus who must hunt down boys at school to keep her body alive. It was very much tackling misogyny and rape culture at a time when Hollywood had yet to really be challenged for the male gaze. It would be years before big-budget genre films like The Hunger Games, Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Wonder Woman would change the tide and redefine the female protagonist as more than a sexualized action star like Charlie’s Angels, Lara Croft or Resident Evil of the early ‘00s.
Also, it’s rooted in a relationship that has spoken to LGBTQ+ culture these days, between two women, a subject that had very little nuance or really any mainstream conversations going on. Jennifer and Needy are not a couple in the film or in love by any means, but the movie plays with sexuality between women in a headstrong way that may be applauded today but was very misunderstood during its release. In 2009, Megan Fox saying “I go both ways” as she comes at Amanda Seyfried was part of the trailer and played to laughs, discomfort or at the whims of male sexual fantasies rather than what it was actually playing at, which is a rare and unique moment of queer representation away from the cliché.
The Movie’s Marketing May Have Altered Your Perception
Aside from 2009 not being the best year for Jennifer’s Body to be embraced, the marketing didn’t help. Coming off of the success of Transformers, 20th Century Fox reportedly decided to market the film to men who were crushing on the actress, even though the core audience for the movie was young women. Megan Fox was being objectified at the time for being a sex symbol in Hollywood and the studio used that to reel in that fanbase, with one tagline reading “she’s got a taste for bad boys.” As Karyn Kusama reflected to Buzzfeed:
Diablo Cody said she wrote it for “girls” and more importantly the “toxic friendships between girls” and how they can “get distorted and corrupted by the patriarchy.” It’s a valid conversation to have in a movie, but when played to young men specifically at the time through its marketing, no wonder the perception of it was ruined for so long. All that being said, Jennifer's Body is a super fun horror movie and without its prior baggage upon its release, it's an especially great pick to revisit this Halloween season.
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YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.
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