International Bon Vivant and Raconteur (nick_kaufmann) wrote,
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur

Masters of Horror: Jenifer

Dario Argento's Jenifer isn't terrible, but it's not that good either. I think most of the problem lies in the fact that there's no complexity to the story, and all attempts at depth ring hollow. Once Steven Weber's character rescues Jenifer from someone about to kill her (Weber also wrote the screenplay) we become immediately distanced from his motives, and thus from the character himself. We don't know why he becomes so obsessed with this hideously disfigured woman, which makes everything that follows -- the sexual relationship, the complicity in the murders she commits -- less than compelling. This could have been overlooked if Argento had brought his A-game -- after all, most of his movies succeed on style, not sense -- but Jenifer could just as easily have been directed by Alan Smithee. It has none of Argento's signature Baroque visual style. If I didn't already know it was Argento, I never would have guessed.

In the world of "no good deed goes unpunished," the story warns us not to take in people in need or they'll wind up eating your cat, your neighbor, a carnie and your new boss's son. But that's okay because she'll also have awesome sex with you. As morals go it's a bit dubious, but Jenifer, to its credit, is not a moral tale. It's more of a tragedy of bad choices, and that's something I can get behind. Too bad the story itself is so mediocre.

The saving grace here is Carrie Fleming. Her performance as Jenifer is fearless, interpreting her as a mix between a wild animal and an innocent child. She brings a lot of raw emotion to a role where she doesn't have any dialogue outside of shrieks, grunts and wails. At least she brings her A-game, even if Argento doesn't. And Weber is his usual wooden self, relying more on stubble and makeup than acting skill to indicate his downward slide.

Also, the ending will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever read a book or seen a movie, ever.
Tags: masters of horror
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