"Where's she from? West Virginia?"Kids can be so mean, but I had no idea just HOW cruel they could be until seeing the 1978 cult classic Jennifer. Sure, it's territory that has already been explored by Stephen King and Brian DePalma's brilliant 1976 shocker Carrie, which is still the definitive teen angst horror film and for damn good reason. The performances are fantastic and the script is simply heartbreaking, but let's not take that against Jennifer. It knows it'll never be as good, but damnit if it doesn't try it's hardest. Jennifer is one perky little movie, so eager to please that it's infectious.
First of all, let me just tell you that I LOVE films with catchy theme songs, so when the first opening titles appear and a catchy pop ballad blasts from my speakers, let's just say I was in heaven. Not unlike the gooftastic theme from the '82 slasher opus Sweet Sixteen, Jennifer's little ditty keeps repeating the main character's name ad nauseam. Actually, come to think of it, they are more than a little similar, even when it comes to the melody. Maybe that's why I like it so much.
Now, we get the, er, pleasure of meeting our antagonists. Sandra Tremaine operates one of the goofiest clicks ever captured on film. All of them wear those unflattering bell shaped hairdos that made Silent Scream such a nostalgic blast from the past and then seem to constantly be unamused at anything. They shout such pleasantries as "They give scholarships to the ones that don't fit in!" C'mon, I've heard better insults on Saved By the Bell!
As Sandra and her posse discuss the test that one of them stole for their science class, Sandra lets it slip that she has more than just a little thing for their teacher, Mr. Reed, when she proudly states "We're all gonna go to Mr. Reed's class and get A's and kiss his sexy ass!" Oh, Sandra!
A kindly teacher goes to see headmistress, Mrs. Cally and....
Goddamnit! I thought we were through with those damn glasses after Silent Scream!
The kindly teacher tells Mrs. Cally all about Sandra and her friends and how disruptive they are to which Mrs. Cally replies "We must be patient, musn't we? She's very high strung. When I was at Green View, we were all like that. One of us wound up in the White House." Really? That's all ya got, Cally?
This character will never be seen again for the rest of the film, so of course I'm pretty sure Mrs. Cally had her killed. Maybe they cut that little subplot out of the film. I can still dream, right? What do you think? I think she's capable of murder.
Uh, oh! Sandra gets caught cheating in Mr. Reed's class and blames our sweet little Jennifer. Of course, the c-u-n-t-y Mrs. Cally doesn't believe Jennifer and dismisses her to go serve food in the caf with my main gal Martha who is the black cook who befriends Jennifer. She tells her to steer clear of gals like Sandra cause "You gotta watch that type. They're the ones who carry a razor in their buns!" I didn't know people did that. Thanks, Martha!
Just to certify her status as a sociopath, Sandra drops her plate right as Jennifer is serving her and claims that Jennifer intentionally burnt her crazy ass. Turns out, Mr. Reed is kinda of a bad ass and taks Jennifer's side. Cunty Cally and Mr. Reed share this exchange:
"Don't try to undermine our structure."
"You mean the rich over the right?"
"The rich are always right."
Sandra's dad shows up and it's John Gavin (Sam Loomis from Psycho), who looks the EXACT same as he did in that movie and still has the most wooden delivery in the world, complete that that horribly fake overenunciated, faux-British accent. Let's read an except, shall we?
"She's jealous. She knows Mr. Reed is in love with me!"
"Oh, yes! Like Mista Pattason was in lavvv with you at Seaside Academeeeyyyyy. I caaaaaan't keep coming down here every time you have to blown your nose."
John, aren't you American?
Sandra keeps getting more and more pissed and how do I know you may ask? Well, she keeps using the word "pissy" in her sentences for the rest of the film. Here's two of the best examples:"I don't need to take your pissy magazines! I have my own."
"If you want to be a skag, out in the cold, pissy sea, well, it's your choice."
My favorite Sandra line comes when her and the gals are getting ready for the most bizarre disco party I've ever witnessed and she quips "Remember that Frenchman I told ya I met in Madrid? He was hung like a hamster!" That's not good, right?
Speaking of the disco party, that's where we meet Dayton, Sandra's preppy a-hole bf, who should really just be shot dead on sight. We are also subjected to the strangest shot where it appears that Sandra is dancing with no one, but treating the camera like she was mugging for a Vogue photoshoot.
"That's right! You're fierce!!! Growl like a tiger!!!"
Not just the girls are trying to get Janie's money. Our doughy cutie pie is solicited for sex in exchange for $100 by another preppy goofball. Janie knows she's too good for that and comes back with "Lotsa guys think I'm pretty sexy." Speaking of which, is she wearing a plastic bag over her clothes?
Things just keep getting worse. Jennifer's dad is a backwood religious kook who owns a pet store and although he's not anywhere near as bad as Margaret White from Carrie, he's still pretty nuts.
Sandra tries to drown Jennifer. Seriously. Then, Sandra has the nerve to kick Janie out of the group for, y'know, trying to stop her from adding cold-blooded murder to her already illustrious resume. Sandra at least gets to keep her dignity with a sassy hair flip exit.
The whole gang takes nude pictures of Jennifer when they throw her clothes up into the rafters of the pool and then post them around campus. Geez, these kids might be worse than the ones in Carrie. Chris Hargensen, eat your heart out!
As a joke, Sandra gets Dayton to rape Janie. What kinda fucked up joke is that?
Oh, HELLLLLL No!
With only each other to turn to, Jennifer and Janie join forces to get revenge by using Jennifer's crazy holy snake controlling powers. Did I forgot to mention that little tidbit? We see some strange flashbacks where little Jennifer is in a church service where they are playing something that sounds a lot like ABBA while she communes with the slimy reptiles.
So, the big revenge scene...well, it's weird and kinda abstract. It's all shot in strange soft focus with crazy colored light gels. The best moment comes when Sandra, driving away from the carnage, sees a HUUUUGE snake head coming towards her from the backseat. It's pretty hilarious.
Wait a minute, Cunty Cally! We're not through with you! That's right! Jennifer finally gets even with her too. As she walks out of the school with Janie, there's so much optimism, I half expected them to break out into song.
The film ends on one of those great, uplifting freeze frames that were so popular in the 70's and 80's. Why don't they still do these? They always make me happy.
Jennifer is a pretty awesome movie. While it's equally depressing as Carrie for the first two acts, it takes a different, more uplifting turn by the film's end that just makes me grin. It's the kinda movie that makes you wish it was socially acceptable to bust out into a musical number down the street. Who cares! If you hear someone coming down the street belting "Jennifer! you can rest assure it's me!
For now, indulge in the many faces of Cunty Cally and marvel at how those glasses were ever considered a legitimate choice to put on one's face right before leaving the house! That's right, I'm going to make you think about something.
10 out of 10 catchy theme songs with the main character's name in them!