An Ode to Jennifer's Body and Female Horror Villains
“You’re killing people!”
“No, I’m killing boys.”
Riddled with fast-paced, punchy dialogue, angsty teenage music, and quirks galore, Jennifer’s Body (2009) deserves a moment of recognition. The film was written by Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama. The film stars Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Jennifer’s Body is one of those horror movies that just works. The balance between comedy, horror, and in this case, teen drama can sometimes fall short. But between Cody’s script and Kusama’s direction, we get the perfect balance of all of the sub-genres at play. For this reason, I dub this movie a perfect October watch. Let's talk about the importance of Jennifer's Body and female horror villains.
The soundtrack is perfectly selected. For those of my generation (late 80s and early 90s babies), the music evokes a very specific high school nostalgia. But even as an adult, the music still hits. The fictional band in the film, Low Shoulder, led by dream boy Adam Brody, sings one of the most addicting soundtrack songs in the film, Through the Trees. We see Fox’s and Seyfriend’s characters, an unlikely pairing of a popular girl and a nerd, tackle all of the typical high school experiences together: boys, bands, sex. But things quickly escalate after a fire at a bar kills locals.
Director Karyn Kusama, I am sad to admit, wasn’t on my radar until recently. Kusama has also directed The Invitation (2015), episodes of Yellowjackets, the Dead Ringers TV show, and episodes of The Outsider. An impressive resume!
Beyond the acting, direction, soundtrack, camerawork, etc. But the thing about Jennifer's Body that I love the most is the fact that we are dealing with a succubus. Personally, I don’t think succubi get enough air time. A succubus is typically a female figure that preys on men (though as Jennifer says in Jennifer’s Body, she goes both ways.) According to folklore, a succubus relies on its sexual prowess to force men to have sex with them. They require semen to survive and do not harm their partners. However, in modern interpretations, namely Jennifer’s Body, men are certainly harmed. Often in modern representations, succcubi are beautiful and feminine, but that wasn’t always the case. They’ve also been known to be demonic and frightening.
Overall, there are way more male villains in horror films than women. Not to say there aren’t any; of course, we have Carrie, Samara, Annie Wilkes, Jason’s Mom, and Kayako Saeki, just to name a few. But Jennifer is rare in her unobstructed beauty; even at her lowest point in the film, she is just a bit tired. Cody pits Needy and Jennifer against each other, but in a way that deeply deconstructs competitiveness between friends.
Jennifer’s Body is a provocative film (not all of its language has aged well) that uses horror, folklore, and dark comedy to address deeper themes of friendship, female empowerment, and societal pressures. Today, it’s a cult classic and has had a lasting impact on discussions surrounding the representation of women in horror film.