The Real Horror Of Jennifer's Body: Toxic Friends

We talked bloodthirsty boy-eating demons with Jennifer's Body director Karyn Kusama and learned that the real terror in the story is the co-dependent toxic relationship between two girls.

io9: What's new about this horror film, why did it stand out to you?

Karyn Kusama: The humor comes from Diablo's vision of the world and I felt like the horror came out of the relationship. Which I thought was a really interesting idea, the idea that this toxic friendship could be the emotional foundation of the horror. A lot of times I think we watch horror movies that by default have a female character. But this movie - it's interesting to see that the so-called monster Jennifer is female, as is the heroine.


I really liked this relationship between the two girls, it's something many people experience. Was this always the foundation of the movie?

It was always supposed to be a relationship rooted in the past, rooted in childhood. And the toxic element of it developed between them as a sort of emotional codependence and role playing in which Jennifer always played the Alpha female in control and Needy was always willing to be her tagalong or sidekick and was subservient to her. I think there have been comedies and teen movies that explore that idea. But in this case that relationship is sort of realized into something pretty dark.

I really can't imagine anyone else playing that Alpha character - was Megan Fox always in mind?

She was an element to the movie very very early. Even before the producers came on.


She's pretty perfect for the role, how did you help her find her inner bitch for this character?

Well I'm sure all of us would love it if we could all find our inner bitchiness. She just relished the opportunity to have fun with that, she was very, very funny with that. But I really enjoyed working with her. She was very thoughtful, smart, very prepared. She brought a lot of humor to the role that I wouldn't have necessarily known she could do because that was something she hadn't done in Transformers.


There's been this new study out that says women watch more horror movies than men. Do you think that's accurate? What do you think about that?


I think actually women were probably always going to horror movies, we just weren't measuring it as religiously as we do now. I think it's a human condition to identify with being scared. There is something about the narrative of flight and survival that I think is very compelling for women. I find it very compelling. I don't watch all of the horror that's out there, because one, there's so much of it and two some of it is a little less emotionally engaging for me than others. I think there is something about watching women, well women and men, but often times young people fighting for their lives - it's a very compelling story. It's a way to deposit all of our anxieties about our own life. Particularly if those anxieties are more mundane but they feel like life and death. It's a way to articulate those anxieties in a safe place like a theater.

And this movie's focus on female relationships will probably bring out more female horror fans.


I feel like there have been plenty of horror movies where the main character is female. A lot of them that I really love. But this is one of those movies where the movie and the horror grows out of the female relationships. And I think that's pretty interesting.

And that relationship is pretty toxic. These two are friends but Jennifer, Megan, really goes after her friend. Can we talk about why you wanted this kind of a dynamic? Why is Jenny so angry with her best friend?


It's funny I was just talking about this with Megan the other day in another interview. And she had always approached this character as someone who was jealous of her best friend, Needy. Jealous of the attachments and the relationships that Needy has in her life. And that somehow there was some subconscious desire to take that away from her.


They dress very different as well. Small spoiler, at the formal Needy looks very 80s in a big pink dress with bad hair and make up while Jennifer has a lovely gown. Whose idea was this and why?

Diablo had always written that it was a really bad dress. By the time I was working with the costume designer I had shown her a lot of reference material, a lot of pretty terrible 80s prom dresses. The worse they got the better the look became. I always wanted her hair to be big and poofy and her makeup to be a little over-applied. I think our costume designer nailed it.


But why make them so different on the outside too?

I think the whole point with Needy was that she was an expression of some more 80s sensibility and that everyone else had been more attuned to the fashions of the times. Needy is a little more nostalgic in life, but also a little less tuned in to the relentless [fashion] magazine culture.


But Megan really was covered in blood half the time too. And the gore was pretty good.

There's a scene where she's literally scooping blood out of the carcass of one of our characters. I really wanted it to look as if she was at a fountain of youth and instead of drinking water, she was drinking blood. So I wanted it to look like she was slurping that blood and drinking it down. We could only get a couple of takes that were working because we had live rats in the scene at the same time which is a whole other absurd nightmare, especially rodents which are not highly trained animals. Meanwhile she's drinking this unholy combination of some kind of stand in for blood and corn syrup so she can ingest it. I felt like by the third take I was waiting for her to just puke into a pail. That scene was pretty painful for her because she was swallowing everything.


The side characters in this film really helped ground the movie in reality. Adam Brody was great and seriously disturbing in an off-putting way.


The great thing about Adam Brody he manages to keep things very charming and personable so it takes a while to really see the depth of his ambition and psychosis. There's a coldness to his single mindedness once he starts to reveal what his plan is and what he's done to Jennifer. So in an interesting way Jennifer gets to be the monster and he gets to be the villain.

When he looked towards the camera at the character Needy, it gave me chills.

It's funny because when we screened it and a lot of those looks generated really big laughs. And I wonder if that's just because people were nervously anticipating what's to come.


I'd bet it's also because they aren't used to seeing him that way either.

Yeah it's true, you have to get used to that the comedy is tied up with his very very bad intentions.


Jennifer's Body will be out in theaters this Friday.

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