Thursday, October 10, 2013

Horror Thoughts ‘13—Jenifer (2005) **

TV-MA, 58 min.
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Steven Weber, Bruce Jones (short story)
Starring: Steven Weber, Carrie Anne Fleming, Brenda James, Harris Allen, Cynthia Garris, Jeff Ballard

Believe it or not this is the first of the “Masters of Horrors” television anthology series of films I’ve seen. They’ve all been on my radar since they first started airing on Showtime in the mid-aughts. The show featured a stand-alone hour-long horror film each episode directed by a well-known horror auteur. Dario Argento contributed two films to the 26 episode series. “Jenifer” was the fourth episode of season one. His second Masters of Horror film, “Pelts”, will be reviewed later this month.

What I expected was something that held signatures of the auteur who directed the film, since the idea of featuring the master class of horror directors was the premise of the series. Alas, this is not so. There is a great deal of sex in this short movie. Perhaps they felt this was an Argento signature. Although his films always seem to bubble with sexuality, this is the first of his I’ve seen that actually contains a tradition film sex scene, or at least one that looks like a Hollywood sex scene.

I suppose calling the sex in this film traditional is a little off since most of it occurs with a woman who is mutated in some way. The mutation manifests itself primarily in her face, which is a twisted mess of a thing on top of a very well built body. She’s also a cannibal who seems to have some sort of seductive power over the men who find sympathy for her. Perhaps this isn’t a far cry from some of Argento’s other material. In fact, the last film I discussed here was his “Phenomena”, which also featured a cannibalistic mutant with a horrific face.

Still, “Jenifer” doesn’t feel like a Dario Argento movie. I seems like Argento was just a hired hand to execute star Steven Weber’s teleplay. I’m not knocking Weber. It’s a good enough premise, it’s just too easy to see where it’s going from the rising incident in the film, when his police officer character shoots a man who appears to be deranged when he’s trying to execute the bound Jenifer. Jenifer is the mutant; and I knew right then that the film would end with the police officer in a deranged state being shot while trying to execute the bound Jenifer.

That’s really the main problem with the movie. It’s too easy to predict. It seems to be made well enough, but it’s too obvious. Now, if Argento could’ve thrown in a trippy soundtrack featuring Goblin and some heads smashing through windows, then they might’ve had something.

Watch the entire movie below.


t-rocc said...

my OCD made me watch the whole MOH season in a row, so was somewhat sensitized to what they'd let slide by the time i'd seen this. even so, this is a roughly wrangled thing, "direction" is a relative term... i was on the whole disappointed with the MOH first season, but hey - seems like that is a great petri dish for directors to play with

Andrew Wells said...

Traditionally television is not a medium in which directors can use their own voice and vision. That is just beginning to change a little bit with the success of cable shows like "Louie" and "Breaking Bad" and the Netflix and other streaming service originals, but even those take much of the individual directors' voices away so the show can have a more even tone throughout its run. Because of the MOH premise, with every episode standing alone, I expected it to be a little different. Certainly some past Anthology series, like Amazing Stories and Tales from the Crypt, allowed the directors to use more of their personal style, but it doesn't really surprise me to see a television project use the directors as hired hands rather than creative drivers.

As for OCD, from which I certainly suffer about horror films and such, it almost had me purchasing the entire series on DVD a couple of times without ever having seen any of them, but the good finance angel on my shoulder kept telling me it was a bad idea. By the time it became convenient to actually consume them all at once in order, I'd moved on. This is a good way to squeeze them in, however, in a Horrorfest mini fest.