Megan Fox plays a transformer of sorts in Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama’s feminist horror/comedy, whose high school succubus plot resembles a combination of the novels My Best Friend’s Exorcism and We Sold Our Souls by the excellent Grady Hendrix. In fact why are you reading this when you could be reading his books?
Like Kusama’s new film Destroyer, High School Succubus has some interesting ideas but never quite hangs together. Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls) plays Jennifer’s bespectacled friend Needy (a perfectly sensible name if you’re called Diablo Cody) who seems to possess super hearing and psychic powers which are never explained. It’s like she has ESPN or something.
Despite the cannibalism, the movie has less bite than Mean Girls – maybe because the pubescent maneater idea is better executed in pictures like Ginger Snaps and Teeth, or that it’s just not very funny. Cody lands a couple of sharp-tongued zingers but Needy’s weedy passiveness and Jennifer’s Shoddy performance make this feel more like Buffy (the film) than Buffy (the show).
Where Jennifer’s Body finds its feet is in exploring female friendship and misogyny, complete with rape-revenge undertones and homoerotic overtones. In John Carpenter’s Christine, toxic masculinity (and a possessed car) turns a virginal teenage boy into a violent version of himself; in Jennifer’s Body, it does the same with a sexually liberated teenage girl.
But while the gender politics feel relevant, the bad rock music makes the movie seem dated – and probably did even in 2009. Horror films that get away with using rock songs consider things like mood and theme, whether it’s the psychobilly brilliance of The Return of the Living Dead, Donnie Darko‘s great new wave soundtrack or An American Werewolf in London only using songs about the moon. You’re trying to craft an atmosphere, to be scary; the only thing scary about Florence + the Machine and Panic! at the Disco is that they’re still around.
Back to the flick, which flopped on its release – Kusama and Cody attribute this to the movie being marketed at boys; analysts blame the horror/comedy genre. Or maybe it’s because they essentially remade The Craft without the plaid. It’s more fun than that though, and features appearances from J. K. Simmons, Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars) and a young Chris Pratt before he swiftly dies in a fire. Everything is arson.