Jennifer's Body may not be an artistic masterpiece, but it's a smart, fun horror movie with a big star. It was a cut above the usual B-grade horror fare. So what caused its abysmal box office returns? Misguided, boy-targeted marketing.
If you somehow managed to exist within the American mediascape and miss the ads for Jennifer's Body, count yourself lucky. Nearly all of them featured Megan Fox (and her title-inspiring body) in a sexy pose, as if we were about to watch a teen sex comedy where boys slaver after the unapproachable cheerleader. Tease campaigns about the movie emphasized that there would be a sexy lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried, the film's nerdy, point-of-view character. In short, the ad campaigns were aimed at straight young men, who are the core audience for most movies starring Megan Fox.
But the problem is that Jennifer's Body is not an ejaculatory explosion movie like Transformers 2. It is a horror movie, which means its built-in audience is already predominantly female (stats show that horror movie-goers are often over 60 percent women). Megan Fox is also not the main character; and she's not the boy hero's plucky sidekick (there are no boy heroes in this movie). Instead, she's the toothy, gory, puke-soaked object of repulsion and disgust. In short, she is the monster.
And she's a very specific kind of monster, too. She embodies one of the scariest demons who haunts girls' dreams: The popular, pretty girl who pretends to be your friend while secretly trying to steal your boyfriend, your pride, and your life. Written and directed by women, Jennifer's Body is a film made in a women's genre about women's problems. It's a movie about why women want to stab Megan Fox in the tit with scissors.
Marketing Jennifer's Body like it was another version of The Hangover or American Pie, with sexy ladies and dick jokes, meant it was doomed to fail. Women saw posters that emphasized Megan Fox as slick sex object, and thought: I hate that chick - why would I want to see a movie about her? And men who saw the movie said: What the fuck? I thought this was going to be tits and lesbian kissing, and instead it's about dysfunctional teen girl relationships? Why do I want to see Amanda Seyfried talking about her feelings for 90 minutes?
Reviews of the film seem to bear this interpretation out. Women and Hollywood's Melissa Silverstein points to a quick survey that Screen Rant did of critical responses to the film:
There were many more reviews by men (77) than women (26). The majority of these were culled from the Rotten Tomatoes site . . . Here's the breakdown: Male movie reviewers: 39% liked it, 61% disliked it; Female movie reviewers: 54% liked it, 46% disliked it.
Director Karyn Kusama told MTV.com:
I don't know if selling the film as a straight horror film and selling it primarily to boys is really going to do any of us any favors, frankly.
And indeed it didn't. Marketing attracted primarily men to the movie (including male reviewers), and a majority disliked it. Fewer women saw it, but of those who did, a majority (including myself) liked it.
I think it's clear that misguided marketing was a huge factor in what destroyed Jennifer's Body. As I said, the movie isn't Criterion Collection material, but it's a damn good genre picture. It's better than most other horror movies out there, with an original premise and a smart, fresh take on a very old monster story. If the marketing droids at Fox had just been smart enough to realize that the movie was aimed at women - not unlike most horror movies - they might have had a cult hit on their hands.