TW: Sexual Assault & Misogny // Spoilers Ahead
The height of subversive horror cinema is Jennifer’s Body. No, I will never budge on that. Yes, Cabin in The Woods is funny, Scream is very well made, and the Scary Movie franchise is …. there. But nothing is quite as satisfying as watching the teenage succubus that is Jennifer Check rip apart boys. In the post #metoo era where the industry is far from changed, watching revenge flicks like these is probably one of the most cathartic experiences due to the slow-moving progress being made. This 2009 film was so far ahead of its time and continues to be the ultimate metaphor, both on and off the screen, for revenge against misogynistic Hollywood. Megan Fox, the perfect casting choice, leads the film as Jennifer — whose body she reclaims power over after an assault by using it to seduce the men in the small town of Devil’s Kettle to their deaths. She feeds on their frightened, vulnerable (and rather unintelligent) souls and sustains her good looks through this. Her best friend, Needy Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried), is caught in between her moral reservations about her BFF’s murder spree and grappling with her own “loyalty” toward Jennifer (hint: it's not just gal-pal platonic-ness). The film examines so many themes concerning romantic leanings in female “friendships,” sexual assault, and female empowerment all without falling victim to the male gaze or objectifying its stars. At its core, it's a fulfilling tale of revenge upon the perpetrators of misogyny and about young women finding their own justice in a world that is aimed against them.
The cast and crew being primarily made up of women is one of the reasons the film feels much more authentic and less exploitative than other revenge films such as I Spit On Your Grave. Director Karyn Kusama takes so much care in keeping the film from turning into torture porn (like the previously mentioned film) and instead focuses on the evolution of Jennifer and Needy. Needy goes through the classic She’s All That nerdy-to-cute transformation but also learns how to stand up for herself and use the succubus powers she later receives for good. Even Jennifer changes to the audience from seemingly together it-girl to the revealed abusive, power-hungry friend that she’s been all along — now heightened in her new supernatural form. Essentially, these women are given complexity that does not revolve around retaining their femininity. It’s about survival and testing the bounds of their tumultuous but co-dependent relationship. Standard horror films with female protagonists, usually written by men, make women’s unhinged struggles revolve around puberty and/or a need for male validation. This allegory examines a nuanced struggle in female friendships that can often lead to toxic codependency and the blurring of romantic and platonic feelings. Jennifer’s Body is the perfect example of why more diverse voices are needed in horror to give some truth to the framework of metaphorical storytelling that is central to horror films (I’m looking at you Midsommar). I mean, can you imagine Get Out if Jordan Peele was white?