Be Careful When Mixing Genre: Jennifer’s Body

I’m sitting here watching Jennifer’s Body, which is a movie I should love. I think the concept is amazing – a girl who gets taken advantage of by men only to turn the tables and start fucking over men. It should be edgy, fucking hilarious, scary as shit and I was expecting this movie to rock my afternoon.

This movie is totally unwatchable (despite a really great opening line). Megan Fox actually looks uncomfortable saying Diablo Cody’s lines (sad, so sad). I am so disappointed that the director missed the obvious: there is something infinitely amazing-hilarious-wonderful about having “the hot girl” look and act completely disgusting. I mean, in this movie, Megan Fox is a parody of herself. This could have been golden. I myself feel like puking up a waterfall of blood that this material was so mistreated.

I’m not going to finish it. I started fast-forwarding at about the 10 minute mark. Um, what the hell happened?

I think this is a really great example of genre gone wrong.

The logline is: “A newly possessed cheerleader turns into a killer who specializes in offing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror?”

It is listed as a horror/comedy, which would be perfectly fine if it were either funny or scary. It’s neither. It’s floating somewhere in the purgatory of absolutely not funny, absolutely not scary, and because it solidly misses both of those marks, the other things that it does pretty well – chatty, self-absorbed teens lamenting their teenness and teen milktoast – don’t really matter because that’s not what the core story is about.

It feels to me like this director disdains horror and isn’t funny. I’ve been a victim to that as well – I had a comedy short directed by a woman who wasn’t funny, the director wanted to take out all the comedic elements because I think they embarrassed her, and *poof* my really funny short turned into a piece of shit.

Despite what may have been on the page, or what could have been created with a broader vision from what was on the page, this movie weighs a little like a John Hughes movie, but it’s not a teen drama! It’s a dark, edgy, ironic commentary on the shit that teen girls and women have to go through. This story is dense with social criticism and I think could have been amazing – something akin to this generation’s Heathers – but, no. I’m actually saddened by the waste of material, and the fact is, because this movie did poorly at the box office, the next project of this tone will be harder to get funded and produced.

It is essential in your writing to fulfill the primary genre conventions, and then if you’re adding another genre into the mix, also to fulfill those conventions as well. That’s why mixing genres is more difficult than writing just one genre – you have to hit the conventions of both genres, and it’s hard to do well. If you’re writing a horror and then want it to be a comedy, it’s imperative that you start solidly with a horror movie and then make sure that you’re layering comedy elements into it that are actually funny and make the audience laugh.

I actually would be very interested to pop into Diablo Cody’s head for a few minutes and see what she envisioned when she was writing this piece, because my sense is this material could have been executed in a way that was contemporary, edgy and intelligent – as well as scary and funny – instead of being self-consciously serious and with please-shoot-me-now-and-put-me-out-of-my-misery slow pacing.

In reference to this film, I think the filmmakers also missed an important point: remember who you’re writing for. I would assume that this movie was supposedly intended for the teen and college audience. But, who thinks that extremely slow pacing, dulled edge, and mamby-pamby would have captured the attention of today’s youth when they’re the “A for effort!” and immediate gratification generation? (No offense.) Write to your audience.

3 Responses to Be Careful When Mixing Genre: Jennifer’s Body

  1. Aaron March 8, 2010 at 12:55 am #

    the good thing about movies like this is that sometimes they introduce us to an actor or actress that exhibits potential. in the case of ‘jennifer’s body’ it is Kyle Gallner. i’ve since become a fan and look forward to seeing his performance in ‘a nightmare on elm street.”

  2. Monica March 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    Aaron, great point. Kyle Gallner is fantastic. He’s been acting for a while, but it looks like he’s about to launch to the next level, which is exciting for him.

  3. Bay April 7, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    I didn’t see the movie, but I read the script and I liked it. I didn’t get the feel it was comedy at all, I thought it was horror. I think I need to rent the movie and see your point. Thanx