Seriously, this might be the most Diablo Cody movie that isn’t Juno.
Insecure high-schooler Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is best friends with confident hot-girl Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) despite their differences, including that Jennifer hates Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons). One night, Jennifer takes Needy to a concert at a local bar where Jennifer catches the eye of the lead singer, Nikolai (Adam Brody). A fire breaks out and kills a number of people in the bar, but Jennifer is taken away by the band, Low Shoulder, against Needy’s objections. Later that night, Jennifer returns, covered in blood and vomiting black bile. She seems okay the next day, but soon Needy begins to suspect that something evil has decided to take up residence in Jennifer’s body… oh, that’s why they call it that.
This movie was Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s follow-up to Juno and, sadly, it bombed horribly. It’s not really hard to see why, honestly. Doing a horror/comedy is harder than it seems, because you have to embrace both film genres together, but it’s really hard to laugh during a gory scene even if the joke is funny. It requires a great sense of timing in switching genres in both the script and the direction. This film has got a lot of clever dialogue, but the timing on it is often just a little bit off putting, because it’s hard to get the full effect of a horror scene when someone makes a great one-liner as they rip open a victim’s stomach without a beat or vice-versa. This movie doesn’t quite pull that transition off as well as other horror-comedies. Despite that, though, the script alone should have made this movie at least a minor hit. It really just has some of the off-beat and laugh-out loud lines that made Juno work so well, just framed around the story of a woman becoming a succubus. The characters are all interesting and well-crafted, although the two leads are the core of the story. From the beginning of the film, you get a feeling that there may be more to their relationship than just friendship and the movie plays with that masterfully. Their dialogue also highlights that the two do get along well, even if they’re very different, and part of that is that they can only be their true selves when together. We see Needy with her boyfriend and he is never as accepting of her feelings and wants as Jennifer. Not that Jennifer isn’t a stereotypical mean girl who bosses Needy around, she is, but it does seem like they do always have each others’ backs until the possession.
The gore in the film isn’t the heaviest for a horror film, but a lot of the shots are too bloody for people to get over easily. It probably also doesn’t help that for a movie marketed for sexuality and featuring a succubus, a demon known for seduction, Jennifer almost always kills her victims before actually having sex with them. She just uses her allure to get men close and isolated then feeds upon them. While I think that was actually part of the subversion that the filmmakers were going for, and it works well in that regard, conflicts between marketing and product often piss off both critics and viewers.
The film has been getting some decent respect recently because it’s a story about a woman literally being sacrificed by men so they can achieve fame and success. If that doesn’t sound familiar, I think you might have missed the last decade or so. Jennifer gets thrown away by them after and comes back traumatized and lashing out, seeking revenge on the kind of men that mistreated her. The only problem with this is that the victims we see her prey on mostly seem harmless. They aren’t even usually sexually aggressive towards her. While this could be a statement about how trauma can cause victims to attack others in attempts to reject the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies being assaulted, innocent victims tend to turn horror movie audiences off.
Overall, I think this movie deserves more recognition than it got. There might have been more that director Karyn Kusama could have done to make the humor and horror elements work together better, but I think it’s still a must-watch for horror fans.
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