Back in 2007, sci-fi master Joss Whedon wrote a scathing indictment of “torture porn” film-making, notably the film “Captivity.” Whedon said the genre, made mainstream by the work of Eli Roth and others, is simply an excuse to vent violent rage at women, to punish the female form for … whatever it’s guilty of. It’s a rage that’s been brewing since Janet Leigh jumped into that fateful shower in 1960, and it’s only grown more vengeful and exploitative since.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Jennifer’s Body“ Diablo Cody‘s campy, hilarious and incredibly flawed feminist response.

Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Written by: Diablo Cody
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons
Rated: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

At first glance, this would be the perfect transgressive film: Jennifer (Megan Fox) is a mega-hottie who uses men as sexual play things and (after nearly being killed in a very funny satanic ritual) uses them as tasty snacks. She’s found out by her sweet, nerdy childhood friend with the horrible name of Needy (the wonderful Amanda Seyfried), who tries to stop the carnage.

I like Megan Fox probably more than I should. She may come off as dumb as a box of rocks in interviews, but her acting always seems to have a glimmer of wry self-awareness woven into her brainless hot girl act. In this, Fox’s glazed, plastic look perfectly demonstrates Jennifer’s mindless hunger. It’s just far too apt to be an accident. In one moment, she also scared the crap out of me when she appears in Needy’s kitchen covered in blood and grins at her horrifically. It’s without a doubt the most terrifying moment in the film.

“Juno” scribe Diablo Cody wrote the film, and just like “Juno” it’s chockablock with quirky little tidbits that vary from hysterically funny to just annoying. Among other things, J.K. Simmons makes an appearance as a teacher with a hook for a hand and a Canadian accent. In anyone else’s hands it would be irritating, but Simmons has the keen power to make anything funny. On the other hand, if I ever hear the phrase “freak-tarded” or hear men referred to as “salty morsels” again, I will be forced to hit Cody with a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Let us take a moment now and reflect on the much-talked-of make-out session between Fox and Seyfried. The scene is pretty sexy. It’s also exploitative (and not in the good way), occurs in a vacuum, and then lays there in the middle of the film, begging for meaning when there’s none to be had.

Then again, I’m not a straight teenage boy, so what do I know?

Possibly one of the most interesting things about this film is its total focus on the female characters. There’s a lack of any real male input, right down to the fact that neither Needy nor Jennifer appear to have fathers. In a film industry where 28 percent of speaking roles go to women, that’s no small thing. But for all the bloody prom dresses and man-evisceration, I hesitate to truly call this a feminist film, or even a really transgressive one. First of all, none of Jennifer’s victims are bad guys — in fact all of them seem to be sweet, good-hearted boys, the kind you could bring home to mom. It robs us of the sweet satisfaction of watching girl-power in action. What kind of fun is it watching Jennifer kill nice guys? By contrast, Quentin Tarantino, in the vastly underrated “Death Proof” vindicated females by letting us watch stuntwoman Zoe Bell kick the shit out of bad boy Kurt Russell. “Carrie” let us watch the soft, nerdy girl electrocute her male and female high school aggressors.

And, in the end, Jennifer’s violent sexual dominion is her own undoing. In the end she’s punished for her sins, just like in every other male-centric horror film ever created.

To its credit, however, the end of the film partially rescues what I think Cody is trying to say. Out of the climactic bloodbath, Needy rises as our real heroine. She’s not a sexual succubus, but neither is she a weak virginal sacrifice. And by the time the credits roll, the real villain has been vanquished and we learn that chick with the stupid name can kick some serious ass.

About The Author

Emma Johnson is a Blast Magazine critic whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe

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