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Hotter Than Hell: Jennifer’s Body

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Jennifer’s Body is a lot of things. It’s the coming-of-age movie Thirteen and Carrie if they ran into each other at full speed. It’s also kind of a version of Heathers that’s been dipped in a crunchy coating of Anne Rice. It could even be described as Death Becomes Her meets Betty and Veronica meets the Bratz. The thing it is, primarily, is thrill ride that will keep you guessing well into the credits and beyond.

The movie is set in the early aughts and as such features a cavalcade of nostalgia for the time period: flip phones, low-rise jeans, and households where only one parent could work and still afford a home. The movie’s soundtrack is a similar mosaic of indie rock hits and iconic pop tunes. In fact, this may be the only movie where the “T” in T-Pain stands for “terror.”

A girl with glasses who is literally named Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and her queen bee BFF, Jennifer (Megan Fox), have been inseparable since grade school. They’re so close that one classmate calls them “lesbi-gay,” which is the most early-aughts insult that may have ever existed. But as we have learned from many a coming-of-age story, puberty is a hell of a drug.

The girls go to the only bar in town to check out a band they learned about on Myspace (which, for anyone whose knees don’t make a crazy noise when they stand up, is an ancient website from the bygone days of dial-up modems, where teens would post vague status updates and also where you could listen to music for some reason). Adam Brody plays the lead singer of said band and is doing a spot-on impression of Brandon Flowers from The Killers, which will be a funny thing to think about after you see the movie.

During their set, the bar burns down, and many people die violent deaths. By the end of the film, we will remember this fire fondly as one of the more peaceful moments in the lives of these small-town teens.

's Body 2Like many female friendships, Jennifer and Needy’s has its ups and downs. It can be hard to balance family life, boyfriends, being in love with your friend who has a boyfriend(???), and eating people, all while trying to graduate. It’s even harder when satanism is thrown into the mix, because wow, are those people dramatic.

There’s a lot to enjoy about this movie, but two things stand out to me: the sounds and the colors.

From the evocative needle drops that cover a wide variety of popular genres at the time, the poster-plastered rooms of the teens declaring fandom for bands like Fall Out Boy and Motion City Soundtrack, all the way to Adam Brody’s Killers cosplay, the film is a perfect snapshot of the world before the digital age was fully realized. It’s also evident in the sound design: there are no loud, cheap scares. Tension is earned and built through thoughtful use of sound and lack of sound. Sometimes the scariest thing is silence because it provides us with no information, and this movie uses that to great effect.

Then there’s color. This movie’s color palette is luscious, bordering on technicolor, without feeling campy or overwhelming. It is vibrant in moments of joyful youth and in moments of abject terror, which is not an easy needle to thread.

I would be remiss not to mention the performances. Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried have incredible chemistry in this film, their performances fully charged with the weird electricity that powers some teenage friendships. We get Amy Sedaris and J.K. Simmons as Needy’s mother and the local science teacher, respectively, doing character work like the rent is due.

You couldn’t possibly need more reasons to see this film. But fine, here: this movie is horny. It’s a horny movie where several people are disemboweled, which is a weird thing to put on wax and share with strangers, but I stand by it. This movie is, at its core, about the teenage experience (also about the devil, but through the lens of teen stuff) and the teenage experience is very horny. There is a fight to the death that is shot like a sex scene, okay? What more do you people need?

Jennifer’s Body screens Friday, May 22nd.


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