Feminist horror film Jennifer’s Body is now a cult classic, but “frat boy” marketing may have been to blame for its initial difficulties.
Like most cult horror films, Jennifer’s body took a long time to find its audience. Its initial release in 2009 was considered a dud, earning only a modest profit amid very mixed reviews. Critics were divided by what they perceived as an uneven tone and dismissed it as a failed effort to have fun at the low bar. Time, however, told a much different story. Although its narrative structure remains clunky, fans have discovered its wild feminist undertones. It has undergone serious critical revision in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and is now considered a cult classic. The New York Times itself included it in a 2018 article citing the best horror films directed by women.
Much of the early damage was inflicted in the studio. A poor marketing plan misunderstood the film’s pro-feminist stature, presenting as entitlement what was meant to be taken lightly. Critical skepticism came from seeing something very different from what was promised and considering that Jennifer’s body was written and directed by women, it’s not hard to spot misogynistic leanings in the movement. Indeed, misogyny was at the heart of the film’s marketing plan, and its eventual redemption as a feminist horror classic is particularly fitting given its storyline.
Jennifer’s body concerns itself with two friends from high school – the titular cheerleader played by Megan Fox and her “simple” friend Needy played by Amanda Seyfried. After a night out with a rock band trying to sell their souls for stardom, Jennifer transforms into a cannibalistic succubus and begins snacking on eager beaver boys drawn to thinly disguised comedies. Needy is forced to find a way to stop him.
Much of the film’s current reputation stems from the dynamic between the two women and how a larger patriarchal power structure pits them against each other. Their conflict is created by and benefits men, which the film showcases with clever twists on horror tropes such as Final Girl. Jennifer’s transformation happens as a de facto sexual assault – Needy refers to the band’s van as “a rapist from 1989” at one point – with the male characters completely unable to mount a defense. Jennifer herself seems blithely indifferent to the group’s attack on her – the sketchy motivation of the characters is a recurring problem in the film – leaving it up to Needy to both clean up her friend’s mess and exact revenge every day. two of the men who caused it all.
The movie doesn’t pull any punches with its violence, and Jennifer’s aggression, in particular, is pretty brutal. That, and the other bloody moments, clashed with what the marketing and promotional materials promised as something entirely different. Fox had been considered a sex symbol since 2007 Transformers – whose director, Michael Bay, sexualized her almost to the point of self-satire – and which preceded Jennifer’s body did not hesitate to take advantage of it. This included the poster, featuring Fox in a skimpy teen skirt and top with the words “HELL YES!” written on a blackboard behind her. The trailer similarly featured Fox in a series of revealing outfits, as well as an inferred kiss with Seyfried and the phrase “I go both ways” featured as a punchline.
That, combined with the film’s R rating and a September release date – a traditional dumping ground for bad movies when school starts and box office numbers plummet – has forced the film to struggle right from the start. departure. The presumption of lighter content promised by marketing has rushed into both overt gore and dark feminist messaging, creating confusion in its wake. Director Karyn Kusama attributed the film’s box office failure to her PR plan in a 2018 interview with IndieWire, and considering all other factors — including the women both in the director’s chair and in the office with Diablo screenwriter Cody — the accusations of “marketing fraternity” are hard to deny.
The movie got the last laugh, of course, with a revived reputation and a focus on female leads rarely seen in horror movies. The toxicity between Needy and Jennifer is complex and truthful, but required the kind of preparation that 20th Century Fox simply wasn’t ready to commit to. Like the men in the film, the joke is on them; the very qualities they overlooked are those that helped him survive their dismissal and find his target audience.
KEEP READING: How Scream Embraces What Most Horror Movies Avoid – The Cell Phone
The Batman Director Celebrates the End of Post-Production With Theatrical Photos
About the Author