Director: 4 reasons to take Jennifer's Body seriously

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Jennifer's Body features an unholy trinity of women at its center: Megan Fox, who stars as Jennifer; Diablo Cody, who scripted her demonic adventures; and Karyn Kusama, who brought them to life on screen as the film's director.

But Kusama in particular knows what girls and boys like, now having taken the helm of three different films that emphasize female protagonists but provide plenty of fella-friendly thrills.

SCI FI Wire recently spoke exclusively to Kusama in Los Angeles about her development of the film. In addition to discussing her own creative impulses, she offered a few reasons why Jennifer's Body will be embraced (no pun intended) by men and women alike.

1) It's gory, but not too gory. Although the film follows Jennifer (Fox) through a series of grisly murders, Kusama said that she was careful to maintain an emotional connection to the characters that wasn't purely driven by revulsion or horror.

"It was a long conversation between the producers and myself and the studio about how much we were obligated to make a movie that sort of satisfied fans of a kind of gorier genre versus balancing the other, I guess, agendas of the movie," Kusama said. "I think there was a sense that the gorier we went, the harder it would be to constantly pull the audience back emotionally to the sort of core of the story. Or that perhaps the gore might marginalize the movie a little bit. And I don't know that's actually true, but I think there was a fear about maintaining that tonal balance, which was already so tricky, and a fear of upsetting that balance with too much literal blood and guts."

2) Whether you think it's gory or tame, Jennifer's Body has some real ideas to explore. In addition to the surface story of a literally man-eating cheerleader, the film explores not only a relationship between two longtime BFFs but also the way that women's sexuality can be played as a monstrous metaphor.

"So much of her icy, in-control façade is just that—it's just an act," Kusama said of Jennifer's aggressive sexuality. "So what I think is interesting about that on some meta-level is that character is played by Megan Fox. She's not played by a character actor making a crazy turn, she's being played by this sort of uber-alpha female. But I just think there's a kind of genre movie, whether it's a great action movie or a great sci-fi movie or great horror film, that is going as deep or deeper with its political meanings or its openness to the discussion of ideas, but is just sort of cloaked in the costume of genre."

3) That said, it's not a lofty enough venture to avoid paying homage to some real horror classics. Kusama said that two masters of horror in particular were instrumental in helping her conceive Jennifer's Body. "Movies about girls making these sort of heroic, or anti-heroic, transformations, you sort of can't make a horror movie about that topic without thinking about Carrie," Kusama said.

"But when I had first met everybody for the job, even before seeing Juno and not knowing Diablo at all, I had prepared this book of images, and one of the visual inspirations I kept going back to was all of the Dario Argento films, and sort of making it clear that Argento's obsession with gorgeous women sort of comes to a dead halt when he then has them eviscerated in multiple creative ways," Kusama added. "That's not obviously the direction we were going, but there was something about Argento's attention to beauty in the lighting and the composition and the costuming and the makeup [that] he clearly cared about those issues sort of almost with a feminine perspective, and then sort of brought his special brand of rage to the table."

4) Although Jennifer's Body has plenty of its own rage, it's got some love, too. The film features an already highly publicized make-out scene between Fox's Jennifer and Amanda Seyfried's Needy, whose unusual relationship adds extra heat to their otherwise lusty lip lock.

"The fact is it's watching two people who know how to kiss each other, which tells you a little bit about either a sexual component, a romantic component, or even some kind of genuine love component between these two characters," Kusama said. "I think what makes people uncomfortable about it is that it's sort of hot, and we feel like we're watching it, but it also does become kind of like it seems like these two characters have done this before, and they understand each other. That's very secret, very private—and that's uncomfortable."

Bonus: If the theatrical cut doesn't quite do it for you, there's always the DVD. Kusama revealed that there would be an alternate director's cut released when the film debuts on home video. "This cut I feel good about," Kusama insisted. "I feel happy with it. I feel like it satisfied the issues that the studio had and maintained or retained the spirit of the original thing. I just think my director's cut just pushes the humor and weirdness of the movie a little bit more. But I think the general integrity of the movie is intact in both versions, which is kind of the only litmus test you can go by."