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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Jennifer's Body: Good Feminist Horror, or Just a Bad Film?

What with all the being sick lately, I didn’t get to catch Jennifer’s Body, but I have been keeping up with the reviews of the film. One of my favorite defenses of it so far can be found on the site Girldrive, in a thoughtful, well-written post titled “Jennifer’s Body and the feminists who hate it.”
In this piece, the author both defends the film and enumerates the reasons she feels it’s been inappropriately attacked by some critics (in particular, she takes issue with critics she feels are bashing the film as an extension of the ever-popular post-Juno Diablo Cody bashing).
I was led to the piece by Mary Ann Johanson, writing a weekly roundup for Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Johanson’s take on the Girldrive piece was very different from mine; she concludes her writeup with this: “And for me, or any feminist, to suggest that I must support any movie, no matter how good or bad it is, merely because women made it, is ridiculous.”
I don’t believe that was the point of the author at Girldrive at all. In fact, she explicitly says, “And I’m not implying that women should get off easy–just that they shouldn’t be written off after 31 years on earth and a meager two screenplays. Maybe Cody just wanted to have some campy, squeal-inducing fun. I’d argue that she succeeded, without exploiting young women or killing them off in rapid succession. Considering the sizeable chick carnage of other recent teen girl horror movies, that’s actually pretty radical.
I haven’t seen Jennifer’s Body yet, so can’t weigh in one way or the other on whether I think it rocks or sucks, but I’d love to hear some input from those of you who have seen it. Radical feminist horror manifesto, or just more annoyingly trendy, overly Diablospeak wrapped around a not-so-great attempt to deconstruct the horror genre?
Weigh in, film freaks.

2 Responses to “Jennifer's Body: Good Feminist Horror, or Just a Bad Film?”

  1. John Wildman says:

    While I can’t completely condemn the film – completely – since it does have some enjoyable moments, the basic problem is this: not scary.
    It is a “horror film” that hasn’t got a single moment of dread or fear to it. There is maybe one character who is in peril that you might be concerned about and even that scenario is botched big time. So, get that out of the way and just consider it a HEATHERS-esque dark comedy.
    The second issue is that the writing is lazy in that the horror “rules and regulations” and motivations could not be less consistent. Because, let’s face it – no one involved cares about the integrity. There IS a flip the script agenda that is the big focus but it’s just very sloppy. And the truth is, they even manage to not utilize what they consider to be their ace-in-the hole – which is the fact they can exploit Megan Fox and her body. The easy answer is that the film was directed by someone that hasn’t got a horror sensibility or an auteur’s singular vision. It’s non-ambitious, basic filmmaking without a director’s opinion – male or female. And that can only take you so far.
    The final thought is about the Diablo Cody-ness of it all. While I don’t “demonize” her work or style, I do think she, by design, falls into that “egg timer” category where a little of her signature writing flourishes go a long way.

  2. RedheadedWonder says:

    Haven’t decided whether I want to see Jennifer’s Body yet (will prob Netflix it), but reading your review of it your most recent column, it made me think of another campy horror film that came out earlier this year: Drag Me To Hell. A lot of people didn’t find it that frightening, but as someone who isn’t much into horror films in general, I appreciated it for it’s sense of campiness, character, and wit that seem to be lost on the current crop of torture porn flicks.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima