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'Body': A Vampy Tramp And a Whole Lot of Camp

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009

There's a certain kooky, kinky fun to be had with "Jennifer's Body," a fem-rage take on campy horror comedy. Megan Fox makes a subversive plaything of her smokin' hottie persona as Jennifer Check, a high school queen bee who, after an ugly encounter with a van full of rock musicians, becomes a raging succubus with a taste for Type B (for Boy) blood.

"Jennifer's Body" was written by Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for her quippy "Juno" script, and viewers can expect the same pun-very-much-intended glibness here, with nonstop references to brand names from Monistat to Bowflex. It's a style that just about wore out its welcome in the earlier film; here Cody's compulsive cuteness is particularly cloying and mannered. Tonally, "Jennifer's Body" is a giddy conglomeration of John Carpenter-era horror and "Scream"-y sarcasm. Viewers can never tell whether they're meant to laugh, cry or barf.

"Jennifer's Body" pivots on the friendship of the title character and her BFF, the blond, bookish girl Needy (get it?), who twigs to Jennifer's psycho-weirdness long before anyone else. (Needy is played by Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia!" fame.) But really, "Jennifer's Body" is about one thing and one thing only: Megan Fox's body, which director Karyn Kusama photographs fully exploiting Fox's fabled sexiness, although coyly withholding the frontal view that her young male "Transformers" fans are doubtless panting for. Compared with her vacant presence in gadget movies that ask little more of her than baring her cleavage over a car hood, Fox's turn in "Jennifer's Body" at least gives her something more spiky to work with, even if it's in the service of instantly disposable pulp.

Still, the movie introduces a little rrriot grrrl-y feminism to a genre that for too long has been predicated on female victimization. Kusama ("Girlfight") handles the structural imperatives with solid timing and occasional panache. And between all the compulsive punning and look-at-me snarkitude, Cody manages to create moments of genuine humor.

"Jennifer's evil," Needy tells her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), at one point, adding, "I mean she's actually evil, not high school evil." Later, in a cleverly edited sequence skewering male vanity, Chip mistakes Needy's expression of terror for sexual rapture.

Admittedly, this is the stuff of lurid adolescent distraction, not great cinema. "Jennifer's Body" is strictly a niche item but provides a goofy, campy bookend to "Drag Me to Hell" on the B-movie shelf. Watch it, forget it, move on.

Jennifer's Body (102 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for sexuality, bloody violence, profanity and brief drug use.

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