Jennifer’s Body Deserves a Reassessment

In 2009, Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body made its cinematic debut, but unfortunately, at the time of release, it made only $30 million in the box office and was poorly received critically. However, it was impossible to deny that Jennifer’s Body had a macabre charm. Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox were a timely duo, having both garnered fame in different genres of film. Fox became a star from the Transformers franchise and Seyfried had been in the unforgettable musical Mamma Mia! Seeing the premise of the film and its stars, it’s shocking that Jennifer’s Body wasn’t more successful as teen horror was huge during that time. But there was a problem with the film that was difficult to see in the Twilight-dominated era that was the early 2000s. It was majorly ahead of its time and the marketing for the film was hugely off target. 

It was easy to dismiss Jennifer’s Body. It plays out like your typical B-horror flick. There’s a girl who gets possessed after a botched sacrifice to Satan and she starts eating teenage boys to keep whatever has been awakened within her body satisfied. We know Amanda Seyfreid’s character, Needy, makes it but ends up in a mental hospital. The point of view feels strangely intimate for a horror film. It’s even more interesting that it’s from a female perspective and one of queer interest as well. Needy is written as a character who had a pronounced and unspoken romantic interest in the gorgeous, irreverent Jennifer. Not only was there lesbian interest within a film that targetted a straight audience, overt feminist themes were also present. 

The film manages to bring up an interesting commentary. The rest of the world turns a blind eye to Jennifer’s monstrous transformation, and Needy seems to be the only one that notices. The monster within Jennifer weaponizes her femininity and makes staying fed all too easy. It’s a melancholic advantage. Because of her beauty and perceived non-threatening nature, she ends up having an edge that not even the most intimidating adversaries have. However, even a playful concept such as that was too radical for the 2000s. 

Films in the teen horror genre from that era relied on easy solutions, raunchy humor, and simple resolutions. Jennifer’s Body provides some of those tropes, but it doesn’t check all of the boxes as the resolution isn’t simple, and actually becomes thought-provoking. In the 2000s, mainstream film was very much an escapist concept with all the turmoil that was associated with that era. Most thought-provoking content was left to a different audience than the one that Jennifer’s Body was marketed to in 2009. It subverts expectations. It plays out as more of a satire than a typical teen horror film. Upon closer inspection, it seems haphazard in its storytelling, but the intention always remains clear and gets the audience thinking about the implications of a film such as this at the time it was released. 

The film’s marketing ended up being key to its critical and financial failure. It’s clear to see from the promo images and especially the trailer that the audience that was targeted was straight males. That is perhaps why the film ended up so misunderstood. However, more recently the ideas that the film presents became more attractive as a different kind of audience rose up to support the film. The problem with it was as simple as bad promos and coming ten years too early. Now, the film has become something of a cult classic because it is so timely. Yes, it is reminiscent of an era when Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco! posters dominated teenager’s bedrooms. However, those teens have grown up and the idea of a group like them making a deal with the devil for fame is a humorous and apt notion. Jennifer’s Body is by no means perfect, but it had bold thematic content and ended up being remembered. There are some teen horror films that have been lost in time, but we will definitely be talking about Jennifer’s Body for a long while. 

Essays

Dani Ferro View All →

Making my way through the world. Writing and stuff.
Twitter: @whatsupsquash
Letterboxd: MyNameIsSquash

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