Time to exhume ‘Jennifer’s Body’ from trash to cult status

‘Malevolent hot girl’ Megan Fox deserves a second date|

Now Streaming

“Jennifer’s Body” is streaming on the Criterion Channel. Rated R. Running time 1:42. Visit www.criterionchannel.com.

Tis the season to restore the reputation of “Jennifer’s Body,” a maligned 2009 release from the tricky “horror comedy” genre. Its rehabilitation has begun with a release on the Criterion Channel and a fresh round of critical discourse. In Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota, you won’t find a lot of cultural landmarks but there are plenty of spots to murder someone without detection. In that hamlet lives Jennifer (Megan Fox), the ruler of her high school. With apologies to the stars of “Clueless,” “Mean Girls,” “Heathers,” et al, no other actress has radiated more malevolent hot girl energy in a teen movie than Fox here.

Jennifer’s best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried, made nerdy by bad glasses) watches along with us as our anti-heroine sucks people into her intense gravity. Despite Needy’s concerns, Jennifer unapologetically embraces her sexuality, trawling dive bars for easy marks. At a watering hole that serves a red, white and blue “9/11 tribute shooter” Jennifer meets indie rock singer Nikolai (Adam Brody). When a fire burns down the bar, he offers, “Wanna go someplace safer, like my van?” (a model called “an ’89 Rapist”). Nikolai believes that the only way to ensure rock stardom is via a deal with the devil and, wildly misunderstanding Jennifer’s sexual history, he decides to use her as a virgin sacrifice to Beelzebub.

She survives and her vampiric transformation riffs on this film’s hugely popular contemporary, “Twilight.” But when Jennifer shows up at Needy’s place covered in blood and thirsty for more, she also calls to mind the indelibly ravenous Beatrice Dalle in Claire Denis’ “Trouble Every Day.” Jennifer easily manipulates teenage boys into doing absolutely whatever she wants, luring them into the woods or abandoned apartments—anyplace to experience the glory of her body.

Before noshing on a suddenly anxious goth kid she sneers, “I thought boys liker you were really into vermin and death.” The film smartly capitalizes on the massive post-“Transformers” objectification of Fox by having her revel in that power. She burns her tongue with a lighter and murmurs, “I am a god.”

For her part, Needy responds to her friend’s presence with a mix of horror, shock and arousal. Fresh from ripping open a boy’s neck, Jennifer whispers “Are you scared?” millimeters from Needy’s jugular vein. As befits her name, Needy still wants to be friends with her bestie even while reading up on the downsides of demonic transference.

Karyn Kusama’s film is now well on its road to post-#MeToo reclamation, making the glorious trip from box office trash to cult treasure. This screenplay from Diablo Cody—a writer who doubles and triples down on her style until it grates—is more effective than any of her other work. Fox’s performance is so over the top that she lands even the most ridiculous lines: “PMS isn’t real. It was invented by the boy-run media to make us seem crazy.”

“Jennifer’s Body” improves upon the theoretically more transgressive “Promising Young Women” because we never doubt for a moment that this film is out for blood. Kusama and Cody also provide insight into the American tendency to gloss over even the most horrendous ongoing tragedies: “Sorrow is last week’s emotion,” the kids say, even as more bodies accumulate.

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Now Streaming

“Jennifer’s Body” is streaming on the Criterion Channel. Rated R. Running time 1:42. Visit www.criterionchannel.com.

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