Last for the month of October, anyway.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Cheerleader Jennifer is possessed by a demon when a rock band sacrifice her to the devil in return for fame and fortune, and she starts eating boy students at the college she attends. The story is told by best friend Needy, who is in an asylum after killing Jennifer. And that is, more or less, all there is to this one. I can imagine the pitch session – take one hot young actress (Megan Fox), add a demon, take another hot young actress (Amanda Seyfried) and have her dress down to look plain and dowdy, add a rock band with occult ambitions, have hot actress #1 use her feminine wiles to lure young men to nasty and messy death (but no actual sex or nudity, as we want that 15 rating, and the hot young actresses would probably need a lot more money to strip), then pit her against hot young actress #2, with some gratuitous girl on girl action as icing on the cake, before the cathartic ending in which the demon is defeated and the rock band get what is coming to them. Sorry if my tone sounds dismissive, but the film really did feel like a very cynical attempt to exploit the most shop soiled tropes of the genre with added prurience, but no real payoff. With Needy in an asylum they could at least have made her an unreliable narrator and introduced an edge of ambiguity, but even that possibility seemed to fly over everyone’s head. In short it was exactly the sort of film you’d expect to get with the title Jennifer’s Body, the tag line “she’s into bad boys”, and Megan Fox showing leg on the DVD case. Horror lite, and more tease than blood money shot. And apologies for any spoilers, but I don’t think anyone watching this will be surprised by the plot.
The Sin Eater (2003)
Heath Ledger is priest Alex, a member of an order in the Catholic Church that fights demons. He travels to Rome to investigate the death of the head of the order, but once there gets drawn into papal infighting and politicking, as well as becoming the focus of a plot to pass on the power of the Sin Eater, a thousand year old man who can absorb the sins of others, allowing their cleansed souls to go to Heaven. I remember reading a story about a sin eater in the old Pan Books of Horror and it was rather an unsettling piece, but this outing over eggs the pudding with the Sin Eater an archetypal figure, one who in an almost messianic sense can take on the sins of others. I liked the concept, but felt it got lost in a welter of plot twists and spiritual contortions, while Heath Ledger never really brought his role to life and none of the characters were people I could bring myself to care about. I suspect I might enjoy it a lot more on a second viewing, but as I said about another film recently I simply don’t feel invested enough in the story to do so. It was for me simply an attempt at being clever that over reached itself. Meh! as all the cool kids say, or at least I think that’s what they say.
Sometimes simple is best. Lewis and Fuller, two brothers driving across the USA, become the target of a homicidal truck driver when they play a joke on a man with the CB handle Rusty Nail. The deadly game of cat and mouse continues with a vengeance after they pick up student Venna, the girl Lewis is trying to impress. Yep, simple, rather like Duel played out with a cast of pretty young things and a CB radio thrown into the mix. We get plenty of thrills and spills along the way, and no surety that anyone will survive, with Nail adding a few plot twists when he drags others into their deadly game. The three stars – Paul Walker as Lewis, Leelee Sobieski as his childhood crush Venna, and Steve Zahn as the irascible older brother who just can’t stop himself mouthing off – are well cast and play their roles with conviction. And, though we only ever know him as a voice on the CB radio, Rusty Nail makes for a compelling monster, his voice harsh and unnerving, his presence in the film that of an almost unstoppable monster. Hard to credit that something this simple was scripted by J. J. Abrams. It lacks the sleaze me, tease me effect of Jennifer and the ambition and convoluted plot of Sin Eater, but was better executed and more entertaining than either.
So what’s with these films having different titles on imdb to what’s shown on the DVDs?