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Old Movie, New Review: Jenifer

June 20, 2009

If you like women with really hot bodies and severely disfigured faces, this is the movie for you.  And I mean the movie, singular, because I don’t know of any others like this.  Some flicks have succubi that trick the protagonist into sleeping with them then reveal themselves to be undead hags, but Jenifer (Dario Argento for “Masters Of Horror”, 2005) never pretends.  Just read the description from Amazon:  “Steven Weber … stars as Frank Spivey, a detective who rescues a strange young girl (Carrie Anne Fleming) with a horribly disfigured face and lusciously ripe body from a deranged killer. But when Spivey takes responsibility for the mentally challenged orphan, she reveals herself to be a creature of untold carnal pleasures and unspeakable violent depravities that may lead him straight to hell. She is seductress, psychopath and succubus all in one…and her name is JENIFER.”  You know up front that Jenifer is the quintessential butterface, so you have only yourself to blame if you get involved with her.

This movie has almost everything crappy horror film needs: short run time (58 min); creepy music involving little kids singing churchy/nursery-rhymey songs; lots of blood-n-guts; and boobies, though fewer instances than I’d expected, given the movie’s description.  Also, if you dislike cats and children, a few scenes will make you especially happy.

With a movie like this it’s silly to highlight plot flaws and amateurish acting because they are part and parcel of the genre.  (I do have to mention, though, the eager attempt and abject failure of Spivey’s partner to channel Joe Pesci.)  However, Argento focuses on a few things that he never explains.  Several scenes show a festering scratch on Spivey’s hand, suffered when he rescues Jenifer initially.  We are at first led to believe that this has something to do with his unnatural obsession with the girl, but it’s never touched on again, and doesn’t come up with anybody else who encounters Jenifer.  Also, the weird, unnecessary scene with a carnie side show owner momentarily derails the movie, but it ends well so I’ll give it a pass.

Ultimately we never discover whether Jenifer is a seductress, psychopath, succubus, zombie, or if she is just very, very hungry.  Maybe Argento purposely leaves this ambiguity unresolved, but Dario, this is an hour-long Masters of Horror mini-film.  You don’t have the time or the audience for subtext and nuance.  If we wanted Fellini, we’d have rented Amarcord.

Jenifer is an interesting idea, though not quantitatively different from being extremely drunk at a Carlos & Charlie’s in Cancun on Spring Break and sleeping with the wrong person.  Except that most Spring Break trips don’t involve eating grade-schoolers.  Still, there’s enough good stuff in it to warrant viewing.

Verdict: Watch it.

Viewing Note:  Viewing this movie with a bunch of dudes will result in lots of “just put a bag over her head!” jokes.

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