Not Your Scream Queen #1: Jennifer's Body

Em and EJ are leaning into our cravings for the dark and the weird with a series focused on female-driven horror! Each episode focuses on a different film featuring female writers, directors, characters and themes. We're kicking off the series with the 2008 cult classic Jennifer's Body, and we all owe Megan Fox an apology.


  • Right from the get-go, Em and EJ agree there’s an important topic that, coming out of the My Favorite Apocalypse series, we have not touched on enough: Cannibalism. It only comes up a few times every episode, we promise to do better. 
  • Which brings us to JENNIFER’S BODY, our first pick for the miniseries.
  • But put a pin in that, Em has some ideas: Since we’ve decided to focus this new miniseries on women of horror--writers, directors, actors, and more--she suggests calling it Not Your Scream Queen. That or Spooky Girls. 
  • EJ is ready to roll but has no clue what movies these are--because they’re not. They’re title ideas for the series. Hello. 
  • Not Your Scream Queen hits instant icon status.
  • The full series will feature a close-up assessment of five different horror films. They don’t necessarily have feminist themes, but they’re all told by women to varying degrees. Which is perhaps somewhat feminist in itself? 
  • Horror tropes have become so misogynistic within pop culture (not by genre!) that anything that deviates from that misogyny feels like it is inherently making a statement. 
  • Em notes that growing up, if there was a girl in a horror film, by the end she was sure to be covered in blood and half naked. And those films aren’t always trash, but when that’s all that ever happens, come on. 
  • EJ adds that if you’re not even playing with your tropes, and merely rehashing, where’s even the fun in that?
  • In this series, Em and EJ are here to examine this issue and have some good spooky fun. 
  • The films chosen for this series are female-written, directed, led, produced, or touch on “female” themes (or at least themes broadly considered female). We aimed for two of three of these for all films included.  
  • And, most of them, we’re going in blind--including our first pick for today’s episode, Jennifer’s Body, starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. 
  • Em remembers in the early 2000s when Megan Fox spoke out about her mistreatment during filming and auditioning for TRANSFORMERS by Michael Bay, and how she got blown off for it. She had to wash his car in a bikini for the audition. So cringey. 
  • Now with #MeToo and the evolution of the conversation of women’s equal treatment, this would never be acceptable, but then, no one wanted to hear it. 
  • We all owe Megan Fox an apology. 
  • And, we like to believe, we’ve come a long way since this film released in 2007--not so very long ago!
  • So let’s start with a synopsis: we snagged ours from Wikipedia.
  • First of all, this film had an incredible cast! Not just Fox and Seyfried, but also with appearances from a pre-fame Chris Pratt,  JK Simmons (and out of typecasting to boot), Amy Sedaris, everywhere you turn there was a big name. Even most of the guys who play Jennifer’s victims were very familiar looking. 
  • Not to mention, writers and director Diablo Cody--indie queen of JUNO, YOUNG ADULT, TULLY … a brilliant lady. 
  • And of course, the film has earned a cult following since its original flop release. 
  • For Em, there were a few reactions, and one was a hard cringe at the accuracy of this film’s reflection of being a teen in the 2000s -- the hair, the styles, the slang…. save us from our former selves.  
  • The other big takeaway: In what universe is Amanda Seyfriend the “plain” best friend? 
  • They at least tried with the classic 90s trick of giving the gorgeous actor glasses to make them a nerd. 
  • Em observes the film starts with Seyfriend’s character, Needy, in jail after the events of the movie--she’s a kicker. Okay. But that line never circled back to any bigger meaning. 
  • Was it because she’d always been the sidekick? She offed the person she was sidekick too?
  • And let’s not forget The Kiss. A kiss between Jennifer and Needy was prominently featured in the film’s trailers, and it was a clear effort to pander to the teen guy horror cliche crowd. 
  • But in the context of the film, and per Cody’s commentary, Needy was written to be a little in love with Jennifer from the start. Maybe romantically, but also could be taken to be that complicated way teen girls relate to each other--there’s always that one girl everyone seems to adore, or perhaps want to trade places with.  
  • There was an obsession between Needy and Jennifer, and a codependency that was very complicated and twisted. 
  • It says a lot about female friendship, about high school dynamics, about developing our own identities.
  • Em suggests the film is a portrait of a toxic friendship. 
  • Even though Needy was second fiddle, but still Jennifer won’t do anything without Needy. There clear rules to their dynamic, including what to wear and how to look, to ensure those dynamics stay in place. 
  • EJ calls out that we’ve all been there. We’ve all internalized these kinds of unspoken rules to social dynamics, especially in high school. 
  • The film is set in the small town Devil’s Kettle, where there is a waterfall with a whirlpool that sucks things in, and no one knows where the things that fall into it end up. 
  • At the start of the film, Jennifer drags Needy along to a bar to see a band playing there. Early 2000s setting, so it’s emo rock, naturally. 
  • Jennifer’s flirting with the band, and Needy hears the band talking about Jennifer while she’s getting a drink, calling her a virgin tease who won’t put out. Needy tries to defend her friend by telling them she is a virgin and you should be ashamed of yourselves. 
  • EJ says as soon as the band leader opened his mouth, all she could hear was “Rape, rape, rape,” from his first words. 
  • There’s a fire in the bar, and in the chaos after, Jennifer gets in the band’s van with them and drives away, despite Needy’s warnings and begging. 
  • And for most of the movie, viewers don’t know what happened to Jennifer that night. But she returns as essentially a succubus, possessed by a demon. 
  • Spoiler alert: The band tries to sacrifice a virgin to satan because that’s the only way to get ahead in the music business. And Jennifer was not, in fact, a virgin, so everything went awry. Apparently in which case, you are embodied by a demon. 
  • Em really wishes the film had gone a different way. Really, a demon? Versus being killed? If she had then turned that demonic force against the band itself in a true revenge, Em would have been all about it. But instead, she ends up preying on relatively innocent teen boys who had nothing to do with it through the rest of the film. 
  • EJ wrestled with it too, but landed on the idea that trauma passes forward. The film goes out of its way to make it clear the guys Jennifer murders in her warpath are not, themselves, evil, as the band members were.  
  • If you looked at the story without the horror elements, it boils down to a woman who suffers a major trauma, and then takes it out on all men, and her friend’s efforts to stop it, tears them apart. 
  • It’s notable that despite everything that happens over the film, Needy is still driven to vindicate her friend in the end, and finally turns the revenge on the band in the end. 
  • But let’s talk about Jennifer as a character. 
  • EJ loves a character who sucks as a human, so she was here for Jennifer and her shitty ways. And she likes that both the hero (Needy) and the villain, or at least the literal monster of the horror arc (Jennifer) were both women -- rare for a horror film!
  • She also appreciated that Jennifer and her return by demon possession upended the trope of the hypersexual female who is the first to die. 
  • Instead, she is victimized, but then becomes the victimizer -- and is the most powerful character in the film. 
  • And really, Em points out, Jennifer starts as a shitty character, but her behaviors are not out of scope--she’s acting like a typical teenage girl in a lot of ways. An immature and toxic one, but a teenage girl. 
  • And, once Jennifer is turned inhabited by the demon, if she doesn’t kill and consume, she won’t survive. So she enjoys it, sure, but she doesn’t have a choice.
  • EJ adds that she even seems to try to put it off as much as she can, to the point that dark circles form under her eyes and her hair starts to fall out. 
  • We all agree the point at which Jennifer crosses the line is when she eats her best friend’s boyfriend. Shit move, Jennifer. 
  • Pause -- EJ didn’t understand why Chip and Needy had to break up for them not to go to the dance together, but for some reason in the plot they were one and the same. 
  • Jennifer had threatened even before becoming possessed that she might steal Chip away from Needy and couldn’t cope with even one person preferring Needy to her. 
  • It seems this is just the plot point the movie needed. Just like when Needy so easily found the book about demon possession in the school library’s occult section. 
  • To be fair, it was a very small section. 
  • There were some really fantastic tongue-in-cheek moments throughout this film. 
  • Ultimately, Jennifer wanted Needy all to herself. 
  • Em thinks the examination of friendship in the film is really interesting--it goes all the way back to when they were little and playing in the sandbox, and their promise to never tell on each other. “Sandbox love is real.”
  • But then at the end Needy calls out Jennifer for being a bad friend all the way back then, too. 
  • So we got heavy, now let’s have some fun. Favorite parts? 
  • EJ had two favorite moments that were super campy…
  • First, the zingers! When Jennifer is hovering over the pool as she tries to kill Needy’s boyfriend, and he exclaims “She can fly?!” and Needy cuts back, “It’s really more like hovering.” It’s not flying, it’s not that big of a deal. 
  • Em had a hard time with the made up slang. It worked when Cody did it in Juno, but it didn’t work the same way in this one -- maybe it’s the quirk factor of Juno? But “salty” wasn’t flying for us. 
  • EJ also enjoyed the terrible effects, once she observed that the film was in on the joke of how awful they were. 
  • Em agrees--the film had self awareness, but it just didn’t transfer to the marketing. 
  • In addition to being a kicker, Needy got fanmail in jail. We don’t know who from, but hey, it’s a thing that happens. 
  • Back to the trauma--because it doesn’t end with Jennifer even after Needy kills her. Because Jennifer bites her, Needy now has some of Jennifer’s powers. 
  • Honestly we need details on what this means. Maybe a sequel. What powers did Needy inherit, or not? Does she have to feed to survive now? We need answers. 
  • Em’s favorite line came at the end when Needy is hitchhiking after escaping the jail “I’m following a rock band!”
  • Then the credits show Needy attacking and murdering the band in their hotel room in a series of bloody still shots with the band’s very emo rock blasting. 
  • But ... was she eating them after? Unclear. 
  • At least in the end we find out where all those lost things in the whirlpool come out -- along the highway. 
  • Like couldn’t they have dropped in something with a GPS? They were just messing around with tennis balls. 
  • There’s a folk song about such a waterfall that inspired this quirk in the town. 
  • Jennifer was very clearly the last person seen with many of the guys killed, but the police never questioned her or anything. There’s even text trails. 
  • Of course, the cops here were not top notch. It was dopy small town Chris Pratt cops, who were head over heels for Jennifer from the start. They actually never had any chance of ever considering her a murderer. She did say she had the cops in her pocket. 
  • Em wishes she had deeper thoughts on this movie. She felt there was a lot of potential there. Looking at it now, we’re inevitable using a different lens. 
  • EJ likes the styling of it because it was cheeky and kind of winking at the tropes even as they destroyed them. And that worked for her even if the characters were flat. 
  • But you don’t see many stories with a teen girl with that kind of power -- maybe CARRIE, Em suggests. 
  • EJ goes on her Stephen King rant--she’d have to read that again to weigh in in this context. 
  • Stephen King just isn’t EJ’s jam, but the nail in the coffin was the pre-teen gang bang at the end of IT. She sees a coming-of-age attempt in it, but can’t go there. 
  • She’s tried reading other titles from King, but the style just doesn’t do it for her. 
  • However, EJ has a lot of love for King’s son Joe Hill and his novel HORNS. 
  • Em’s seen some Stephen King films but not read the novels. She’s not too hung up on “the book is always better.” Sometimes she doesn’t read the book and goes straight to the movie. 
  • But she did read PET SEMATARY and thought it was pretty good, and at her library she found a horror anthology on the children’s shelf that was not for children and started reading it, and that had a Stephen King story that really scared her, from the SALEM’S LOT universe. She never stopped thinking about it and finally found an out-of-print copy -- it’s called YOUNG MONSTERS. 
  • Em is really excited for this whole miniseries!
  • We’re both in that weird horror vibe lately -- EJ has been really digging Hannibal; Em has been going deep into VIVARIUM (on Hulu). Recommends, it’s so weird. Em is still not sure what the movie is about. 
  • EJ suggests another future miniseries theme: nutso movies that just don’t make any sense. And she already has a rec for it: KABOOM. 
  • EJ asks Em if the problem with Jennifer’s Body was … a marketing problem? A treatment problem? A timing problem? 
  • Em sees what the film was trying to be, and loves what it’s trying to be. She loves the kitchiness and the aesthetic with the really bad special effects. But she also sees why that didn’t click for a lot of people, especially the way it was marketed. 
  • If you took Cody and had her rewrite it now, Em can see it being so much more. She wants to love it. 
  • She loves a monstrous woman at the center of a story, she loves a story about female friendships, this film checks all her boxes but leaves her feeling flat. 
  • Em says she thinks it’s marketing -- it’s all just about Megan Fox looking sexy. 
  • EJ says the poster looks like BAD TEACHER, a comedy with Cameron Diaz. There’s nothing to indicate what the film is really going to be, could be comedy, could be horror, who knows. 
  • Cody has said she has no interest in a sequel, but would be into the idea of a TV show. Em and EJ are into it and Em could see a really good SABRINA-style treatment for it. 
  • EJ doesn’t want Netflix to get it though because she’s into the new Sabrina concept but didn’t like the execution past season one. 
  • Em never finished Sabrina--the last she saw she remembers the aunt’s quote, “It’s been so long since I’ve had long pig!” 
  • Aaaaaaand we’re back to cannibalism. Long pig is human. 
  • EJ contends the film would fare much better now. The world wasn’t ready for it and that’s why the marketing was a fail. 
  • Jordan Peele’s GET OUT and other recent horrors have proven we’re ready for a more sophisticated kind of horror story, whereas when the film released horror was really dumbed down and weren’t even taking themselves seriously. 
  • EJ remembers watching FREDDY 9 or something with college buddies and at that point it was just a ridiculous spoof of itself, but that’s where horror was at that time. 
  • So while Jennifer’s Body isn’t as sophisticated by today’s standards, audiences would be ready for it now. 
  • Em wants more digging into the Needy/Jennifer relationship. If they explored that more now, that would make the movie. 
  • Another film from the time: THE CRAFT -- and it works because of the relationships between the women. 
  • Jennifer’s Body’s 2009 release wasn’t so long ago, but there’s been a major culture shift for what women are allowed to be. 
  • Ultimately, you could watch this film just for the surface entertainment and it will deliver. 
  • Em thinks it’s icky that they were selling a premise of grown men watching the film for sexy high school girl entertainment … but then we start to realize most of the slasher films were supposed to be high school. 
  • Another thing to be unpacked, especially the way sex is entangled into this kind of horror violence. 
  • But of course, high school is horrific. 
  • And there were probably sophisticated horror writers in those times, who just couldn’t get their foot in the door. 
  • EJ shouts out a great article she found listing the top women horror films of all time
  • What was number one? We don’t know, EJ didn’t actually read it yet. 
  • Okay okay, one more point EJ wants to discuss: Medusa. 
  • If you don’t know the origin story of Medusa, she was coveted by Poseidon while living on an island with her sisters. Poseidon rapes Medusa in Aphrodite’s temple, and then out of jealousy, Aphrodite punishes the victim, Medusa, with her signature snake hair and glare to turn people into stone. Leaving Medusa to isolate herself, and then someone (Jason? Orpheus?) finally comes and kills her.  
    • Edit note: It was Perseus. We’ll work on our mythology. 
  • EJ felt it was a very similar chain of violence in Jennifer’s Body. 
  • Em points out there’s one difference in that Medusa chose to isolate herself rather than run around murdering men with her glare power, while Jennifer went on a man-eating rampage. But other than that, a lot of parallels, something about that cycle of violence. 
  • And we’re Medusa fangilrs around her. 
  • Em wants Madeline Miller, author of CIRCE and ACHILLES, to write a Medusa book. And to write a Medusa book herself.  
  • Hey, we dove deeper than we thought we would. Cool. 
  • Leave us reviews! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
  • And keep following the Not Your Scream Queen series -- in the next episode, we discuss HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT. 

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