Welcome, dear readers, to Substream’s 31 Days of Halloween. While every holiday captures the hearts and minds of the Substream staff, Halloween holds an especially important place in our hearts. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, it’s time for us to share our love for this holiday with you.
Every single day in October, our collection of spooky staff writers and ghoulish guest contributors will walk you through a horror or Halloween-themed movie they adore. The goal is to both celebrate the titans and icons of the season while also introducing you to new films and scares to fill your autumn nights. Lock your doors, check under your bed, and settle in as you join Substream for our 31 Days of Halloween.
Day 19: Jennifer’s Body (2009)
I watched the unrated cut of Jennifer’s Body last night, expecting to love it. The premise of Diablo Cody’s 2009 succubus-flick is, to be colloquial, precisely my shit. Megan Fox plays Jennifer Check, the hottest, most popular girl at school. After a concert at a local dive bar, Jennifer is kidnapped by a Satan-worshipping pop-emo band, who attempt to kill her and offer her to Satan in a virgin sacrifice. When the ritual goes wrong, Jennifer accidentally becomes possessed by a succubus demon, and starts killing and eating her classmates for sustenance. It’s up to Jennifer’s best friend, the sheepish Needy Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried), to stop her before prom. In his review of the movie, Roger Ebert called the film “Twilight for boys.”
In the decade following its release, Jennifer’s Body has garnered a considerable cult fanbase, and it’s easy to understand why. The screenplay sometimes toys with feminist themes, it has That Kiss, and Cody’s ear for dialogue separates it from the average slasher flick. At face value, Jennifer’s Body looks like The Feminist Horror Movie, or The Queer Horror Movie. Like most cult classics, it’s simply good enough.
The bones of a good horror movie are here. The performances are mostly bad, but the kills are perfectly paced. There are long shots of Jennifer walking down the hallway in some incredible outfits, which feels like proof that someone on set knew where this movie excelled. It’s endearingly of its era; one of the very first lines of the film implies that no one in the world gets more fan mail than Zac Efron. Seyfried is occasionally great, delivering the only believable sense of dread, like the scene where she has visions of Jennifer and her kills while having sex with Chip. While I wouldn’t call any character here whole, the main cast is memorable, and I enjoyed watching them. It’s easy to understand why someone would love this film, hold it dearly, and defend it from its detractors.
Where Jennifer’s Body falls on its face, though, is in the screenplay. I wanted to love it for what it is–Diablo Cody’s follow up to her 2007 breakout, Juno–and there are moments reminiscent of that movie’s great screenplay and quirky dialogue. However, I mostly found myself constantly tripping over the zig-zags between never-ending slurs and terrible cliches. Needy, via narration, addresses the audience with a “I know what you’re thinking: a babe like Jennifer? Friends with a dork like me?” Minutes later, Jennifer calls Needy “lesbigay.” A young Chris Pratt shows up for a few minutes in the bar scene to make a few coy jokes about wanting to have sex with Jennifer, then drops an F-slur and disappears for long enough for the audience to learn he was killed off-screen. The extent and variation to which the suffix “-tarded” is utilized is incredible. The R-slur is probably appears more frequently in dialogue than the word “Jennifer,” and because so much of the film lies in predictable tropes, there’s hardly any tension. Every scene is predictable, because you’ve seen it already in another horror movie or a CW show.
And with that, I can’t think of a movie that deserves to be remade more than Jennifer’s Body. Earlier this year, while zoning out during a lecture, I reminisced on Jennifer’s Body. I hadn’t seen it since it was released, and I tried to remember it. I recalled the outfits, particularly Jennifer’s white coat that gets stained with blood after she becomes possessed. I remembered the emo boy getting killed in the abandoned house. I remembered the scenes from the trailer: Jennifer burning her tongue with a cigarette lighter, her face quickly flashing a set of razor sharp teeth in the woods, her prom dress. I remembered it all fondly. My brain remembered the bones of this movie and assumed the cartilage was adequate. I remembered the premise, which is the only part of the movie that holds up. It’s the premise of the movie that makes Jennifer’s Body worthy of its post-#MeToo resurgence. Why not take another stab at it?