Sunday, November 01, 2009

Vamp or Not? Jennifer’s Body

teaser poster

So Halloween night and I went to a preview of Jennifer’s Body – which, given it was Halloween, was very poorly attended but perhaps the movie going public were down the corridor in the re-showing of American Werewolf in London.

Now it was always my intention, once I'd seen Jennifer’s Body, to do a ‘Vamp or Not?’ When it first started appearing on the radar there was a teaser poster that was clearly rather reminiscent of the branding used for True Blood.

Now, on the surface this isn’t vamp, it is demon. Jennifer (Megan Fox) is taken by an indie band and sacrificed to Satan in order that their dreams of superstardom might come true. Unfortunately they believe her to be a virgin – a supposition that, whilst confirmed by her friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and by Jennifer herself, is very far from the truth. The film creates lore that, if a virgin sacrifice happens to not be a virgin, those conducting the ritual will still get their boon (so Satan is rather uncharacteristically generous in this film) but a demon will inhabit the soul of the sacrifice.

Now we have a person killed and brought back due to a merger – if you like – of her soul with a demon. Actually such a demonic basis for vampires does have precedent, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer for instance. Clearly Jennifer is now undead and has also developed cannibalistic tendencies – so what is that all about? Jennifer must eat human flesh – though, whilst they say that, when we actually see her feasting we actually see her cupping her hands into a ripped open midriff and supping.

Remember that many versions of the vampire myth have the consumption of flesh as well as, or rather than, simple blood drinking. Jennifer does develop a maw of fangs when she attacks and ties the attacks in with sexuality – though she also seems to thrive on the victim's fear and hopelessness. The cannibalistic act makes her indestructible, she burns her tongue and cuts her arm purposefully at different moments and both injuries heal instantly. It also makes her look at her absolute best. When hungry her skin pales, she gets dark shadows round her eyes and her hair becomes limp and lifeless. The feeding maintains her undead state and, whilst she doesn’t wait too long between feeds, we can assume a continuing decay if she didn’t.

There is a point in film when Jennifer tries to eat a (cooked) chicken and hurls black demonic bile – why that was the case isn’t actually explored in detail, so we can only assume that normal food is now off the menu. Getting back to blood, there seems to be a psychic connection between Jennifer and Needy (certainly during one kill) and this may be down to the fact that Jennifer pricked her finger as a young child and Needy removed the tack and sucked the blood from the puncture; a scene designed to show the birth of their friendship but with a blood element included.

Megan Fox as JenniferThere is a funky eye thing going on, but that could tie in with a variety of supernatural creatures. We get a further power of levitation as well as a definite neck bite. She can be killed – though this is easier when she is hungry. To kill a demon you must stab the host through the heart – okay, that is straight out of the vampire handbook! We also discover that should someone be bitten by a demon and survive, the survivor gains some demon like powers – such as levitation and super strength. Thus we have the transference of power, which whilst not full turning is again rather vampire genre.

The film does not use the V word, at all. It does use ‘Demon’ and also (but this seemed irrelevant) ‘succubus’. However the basic lore this creates is rather vampire genre reminiscent and whilst screenwriter Diablo Cody might have been trying to not write a vampire genre screenplay, it is essentially what she did. This brings us to the question of was the film any good? A lot of the criticism I have heard levelled against the film was within the dialogue and the fact that no real person speaks in the ‘youth speak’ way portrayed. The dialogue was delivered naturally enough by the principle leads but it did stick out like a sore thumb as being unnecessarily trying to be clever and failing to capture anything like real youth speak. That said I could live with it (and it did provide moments of humour). Unfortunately there was also a tendency for the script to be too self-aware, too obsessed with being clever for clever’s sake.

It did seem to me that, for a film named Jennifer’s Body about a character who clearly (as a character) didn’t mind getting naked, we saw very little of Jennifer’s Body. The horror moments within the film seemed somewhat too sparse also – probably because rather than being a straight horror it tries to be something more. It was nice to have some consequences shown, not only larger consequences but also scenes of Needy mopping up the black demonic bile, for instance, and being left with stains around her nails the next day.

This wasn’t the best film I have seen – not by a long shot – but it was alright and it definitely steals its essence from the vampire genre. The imdb page is here.


MadeInScotland said...

zombie methinks.

Hallowe'en was a great opportunity to dig out Martin.

And returning to the theme of Zombie's, Colin doesn't even come close!


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi MadeinScotland - she seems to sentient for a zombie, though there is now a spate of sentient zombie movies I've noticed.

Always good to find a reason to dig out Martin.

I actually got hold of Colin, as it does look interesting, but haven't watched yet.

Good to hear from you

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, sometimes the line between demon and vampire does become blurred. I did think, way back in the '80's, that when one became a vampire, one's soul was condemned to hell in exchange for immortality (which was why a vampire would want to live as long as possible, for if he perished, his soul would face damnation in hell). Which was why Jason Patric in The Lost Boys didn't want to become a vampire. And kinda why I didn't want to be a vampire when I was 14, as tempting as it was. Not that I had a chance back then, though! ;)

But now, in the day of good vampires, who possibly have souls like those in Twilight, well, the door's wide open....

Thanks for posting your thoughts on Jennifer's Body!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Nicole, cheers for the thoughts.

Dracula, the novel, of course took things differently by having the process of destroying the undead saving the soul.

I find the whole premise in Buffy/Angel interesting. We are unsure what has happened to the actual person's soul but when they are infected with the blood demon the soul goes somewhere (limbo?). The demon kind of merges with the personality - which is clearly nothing to do with soul.

Angel, of course, had his soul restored and his soul became a conscience... However, Spike seemed unchanged, personality wise, when he restored his own soul. Angel also suffered the torments of Hell for his sins when he died - and yet his crimes were committed without a soul...

Perhaps need more looking into or, perhaps, was just made up as they went along!

Getting back to Jennifer's Body, yes there is that fine line sometimes between Demon and Vampire - especially when the writer (sub?)consciously blurs the line.

Cheers for commenting, as always.