Jenifer’s Body (Unrated) [Blu-ray Review]

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, J.K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris, Adam Brody
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

Running Time: 102 minutes
Ratings: “Theatrical Cut” Canada – 14A, USA – R, UK – 15
“Extended Cut” – UNRATED

Back Cover

Sexy temptress Megan Fox is hotter than hell as Jennifer, a gorgeous, seductive cheerleader who takes evil to a whole new level after she’s possessed by a sinister demon. Steamy action and gore galore ensue as the male student body succumbs to Jennifer’s insatiable appetite for human flesh. Now it’s up to her best friend (Amanda Seyfried) to stop Jennifer’s reign of terror before it’s too late.

Movie

Like so many others, two thoughts crossed my mind when I first heard about this film. The first was, “Diablo Cody? The screenplay writer responsible for Juno? I can’t wait to see what she has in store for a horror thriller.” The second was, “Megan Fox? At least she‘s being given an opportunity to show some diversity.” And now, having seen the final product, the postgame report…

The writing started off being a bit of a disappointment given Diablo Cody’s excellent work with her Juno script. However, given the nature of the genre in which Jennifer’s Body gets classified, I was able to give it the benefit of the doubt. It certainly did maintain the modicum of quality found in most mainstream horror thrillers. It’s everything which we have come to expect from the genre. Of course, that was only the case until I heard the words “Do you have a tampon? Thought I’d ask. It seemed like you might be plugging” uttered during a scene when Jennifer’s body was bleeding excessively from a large puncture wound in her lower abdomen. That piece of dialogue will forever be burned into my memory as one of the top credibility shattering moments in film history. To keep it short, Diablo Cody probably should have used this project to start off her career because Juno would have proved a step in the right direction as a second outing.

As for the Megan Fox reaction mentioned earlier? Well, let me put it this way. With Jennifer’s Body, Megan Fox does what she does best. She provides plenty of eye candy on screen while horrifying the audience with her performance. And, strangely enough, that makes her casting in this role quite a perfect executive decision on behalf of the filmmakers. I believe that Megan Fox has found a niche in which she can cozy herself into a comfortable career without the fear of reproach. Her portrayal of a one-track minded high school girl who gets by on her looks and not her brains seems to come about as a natural instinct. It’s definitely her most genuine performance to date.

The performances of this film worth mentioning as “stand out” are definitely those of Amanda Seyfried and Adam Brody. As Needy, Amanda Seyfried is quite enjoyable to watch. Her nerdy small town “on the cusp of womanhood” teenager has a layered journey throughout the film where she handles the transition into independence quite well. By the end of the film her character has shown a tremendous transformation while maintaining an element of believability… well, as believable as it can be within the context of the material. And Adam Brody gets a chance to step out of his claim to fame “O.C. geek sneakers” to portray a serious musician who will go to dark and dirty lengths in order to be successful. Although I would have liked to see him push a bit further into the villainous aspect of the role, at least it shows that he could prove to be an excellent antagonist in any of his future endeavours.

Overall, the film is not a complete waste of time. It isn’t as scary or thrilling as you might want it to be. It isn’t as well crafted as you might want it to be. And it certainly isn’t as sincere as you might want it to be. However, I can honestly say that it held my attention from theme to credits with only one moments falter.

EDIT: Having let the film stir in my mind for a day after first viewing it, my first impressions have changed slightly regarding the writing. Sure, what I wrote above definitely sticks when referencing the dialogue in particular. However, it donned on me a number of hours after hitting the stop button on my Blu-ray player that there must have been some method to the madness which I experienced. In a Hollywood rarity, this genre film delves seriously into themes of sex and desire as powerful tools from a female perspective. It isn’t very often that we see this thematic issue dealt with earnestly. It is mostly the type of fodder reserved for teen comedies where the high school girls are metaphorically at each others throats over silly competitive issues that somehow revolve around the need to attract a male student; thus lowering the credibility of the theme in order to get laughs. Jennifer’s Body does the opposite. It explores the notion that a female discovering the power of controlling her sexual desire can lead to dangerous levels of self-esteem. It also seriously explores the power that teenage girls try to hold over one another. Obviously these are exaggerated for effect within the film, but it is worth noting nonetheless. My Crave Factor rating for this film has been adjusted to reflect this new epiphany.

P.S. I decided to include the above paragraph as an edit and not a rewrite in order to reflect that the film may not prove to be a “winner” at first.

Crave Factor – 7

Extras

Commentary [Theatrical] (Karyn Kusama & Diablo Cody) – I wasn’t very impressed with the ladies behind the decisions of this film in their commentary together. Diablo Cody only has 2 or 3 sentences in the entire commentary that add any relevance to the context of the scene in question at the time. The majority of their banter either points out the obvious or relays a single sentence simplification of why the shot/scene is one of their favourites. Overall, it didn’t do enough for me to merit the full listen.

Commentary [Unrated] (Karyn Kusama) – Not a full length commentary, this track is scene specific. The director pops in to add some reasoning regarding the changes made for this unrated cut of the film. And, unlike the other commentary, her contributions this time around actually turn out to be rather relevant and insightful. Even though there is less talking within this commentary, what is said is far more potent.

Deleted Scenes (13:55 as ‘Play All‘) – Of the 5 deleted scenes included on this release, the only one which deserves any attention is “Needy Confronts Jennifer.” It offers some worthwhile bridging exposition between scenes while offering a glimpse at the distinctive paradigm shift in perspectives between the two best friends and what is going on. The other deleted scenes either offer unnecessary exposition or content deemed inappropriate given the teenage element of the characters in question.

Gag Reel (4:55) – Gag reel my buttocks! This clip starts with several very non-funny moments where actors flub a line or two. Then it proceeds to become a promotional video for the film with the Low Shoulder song playing overtop. Some occasional clips show the cast and crew in action beyond the confines of the filming, but not nearly enough to dub this anything but a “sort-of trailer.”

Jennifer’s Body: The Dead Pool (14:00) – A standard making-of featurette that covers many of the visual effects and special make-up effects used on the demon aspect of Jennifer’s character. I will admit that the best part was hearing Megan Fox saying, “I love being covered in blood, shit, and puke.” I wonder what kind of man she’ll attract with that kind of fetish. All joking aside, this actually has more “gag reel” worthy footage than the actual gag reel included in the extras and there is some interesting added production info to learn about.

Video Diaries (12:51 as ‘Play All‘) – Megan Fox & Jimmy Simmons offer a video diary from on the set in between takes. It’s a quick assortment of clips taken in preparation for the stunt where Jennifer throws Chip into the pool. Amanda Seyfried carries the handycam for a bit in her travels. Her most interesting offerings involve wanting to be a British actress someday and a conversation with Chris Pratt about a meteor shower. His response is priceless. Diablo Cody actually has a few witty sayings to offer. They aren’t really contextual or anything relevant to the film, but they are clever. In particular, you should see the conversation with one of the lighting guys. I must say, this lighting guy has an impressively job efficient outfit set up for himself. The last diary belongs to Dan Dubiecki (Producer). The only entertaining moment is the Handycam Duel that he has with Diablo Cody. You’ll have to check it out yourselves to find out who won and why they won.

Megan Fox Is Hot (0:56) – A montage of Megan Fox exploitative moments. Need I say more? Can this be looped? I don’t think 56 seconds is long enough for…

Megan Fox “Peer Pressure” PSA (0:40) – This is anything but a Public Service Announcement. This has become my favourite thing about this entire Blu-ray release. SERIOUSLY! YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS! Even with the slight warning I’ve given you, you probably won’t expect what it has to offer.

Fox Movie Channel Presents “Life After Film School With Writer Diablo Cody” (26:26) – Three film students spend some time with Screenwriter Diablo Cody asking questions about the self-proclaimed unlikely celebrity’s rise to stardom and her experiences since the transition has occurred. Diablo Cody doesn’t get to speak too much about Jennifer’s Body in particular, but she definitely gets some interesting facts across about how she has approached incorporating her unique female perspective into a cliché laden industry. She also dishes about some of her more interesting biographical bullet points; namely the phase in her life revolving around being a performer at a gentlemen’s club.

Crave Factor – 7

Video

1.85:1 Widescreen / AVC

This transfer is quite a thing of beauty. With the numerous scenes that take place in the woods at night or any of the many other dark settings, the blacks really get an opportunity to distinguish themselves from one another. So much depth is added to these scenes which could have easily been lost had the blacks been crushed in the very slightest. Even more impressive is the sheer clarity and vivid aspects of the presentation. Regardless of the amount of light in any given scene, the colours and texture detailing are positively resilient. The only exception to this is the pale physical appearance of Megan Fox’ character when she is weak and in need of her special “energy cocktail.” Several extreme close-ups of numerous characters and subtle actions really shock and awe with facial skin texture and clothing details. In one scene where Jennifer is drying her hair after a skinny dip in the local lake, her goosebumps are clearly visible AND her arm hair can be seen standing on end. Now that is impressive! The only blotch on this otherwise magnificent presentation is the presence of film grain. I’ve come to accept the presence of film grain as a necessary factor in the image. The degree to which it is noticeable becomes the ultimate deciding factor in how a Blu-ray transfer will finally rate. In this case, there were 2 moments when its presence was profound enough for me to acknowledge its existence. But, just as quickly as I had noticed it, it managed to escape my gaze. It is that fine of a grain.

Crave Factor – 9

Audio

DTS HD-MA 5.1 / Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Portuguese)

It may not be an overly active audio track, but this mix certainly does its job to the Nth degree. First noticeable element to this audio presentation is that there is rarely a scene where ambience isn’t of primary concern. Every speaker gets plenty of opportunity to fill the room with subtle, and not so subtle in some cases, atmospheric detail. In particular, scenes that take place in the woods and the scene in the local tavern are rich with full 3D environmental detail. My only beef with this track is that they could have taken this detail to the next level by offering a bit more of this to maintain a consistency throughout the entire film. There are a few moments where magnificent transitions occur from front to rear (or vice versa) as crows pass through the scene or bodies are being tossed about the frame. There is also plenty of use for the surrounds with the numerous supernatural sound effects moments. Jennifer’s transitional state offers plenty of full spectrum screeching and screaming that span the dynamic range of every speaker. The resulting really does send shivers down ones spine. The subwoofer doesn’t get to play as much in this title as it might in most other horror thriller films, but when it is called upon it certainly makes itself known. The explosion at Melody Lane stands out as a particularly deep and resonating LFE boom. And, in the end, it is the clarity that matters most in a presentation of this nature. With splintering wood, liquid splatters, and melee contact foley coming through as crystal clear as it can get, who could ask for anything more from a mix of this nature? Even the most subdued of dialogue in the film competes for best clarity on the track.

Crave Factor – 9

Menu

This disc loads into a menu screen that offers an interesting video collage of characters from the film and hand drawn symbols relative to the story. The background consists of a marbly/firey evil red shifting canvas on which the collage plays out. A small section of the atmospheric instrumental theme overlays the menu perfectly letting the viewer know that something pretty intense is about to unfold. The menu options themselves are strewn out near the bottom of the screen. The highlighted option is distinguished by 9 small streams of blood dripping over the option itself. A nice added touch is that when first highlighted a couple drops of blood can actually be seen falling from the drip graphics towards the bottom of the screen.

The playback menu offers the exact same free-floating menu option design with dripping blood highlight graphic. Obviously it does not incorporate the collage or audio overlay from the disc menu though.

Crave Factor – 8

Conclusion

Jennifer’s Body certainly was not what I expected it to be. It turned out to actually be a film that not only was enjoyable to watch, but it also left me thinking afterwards. For a film of this nature, topical substance is not something that one finds often within its respective section on video store shelves. That was the most surprising aspect of this experience for me. And, what better way to enjoy that than with this pristine Blu-ray presentation of the film. With video and audio transfers that have nearly nothing to complain about, 20th Century Fox have provided an exceptional package with Jennifer’s Body. What makes it even better is the inclusion of both the theatrical and the unrated versions. Unfortunately, the supplemental material doesn’t offer much extra value. Only the scene specific unrated version commentary with director Karyn Kusama and the Jennifer’s Body: The Dead Pool featurette offer substantial information.

Final recommendation is that Jennifer’s Body is a “rent before you buy” title as I can easily see where some people just won‘t succumb to the films style and tone.

Overall Crave Factor

8

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