Starring Steven Weber, Carrie Anne Fleming, Brenda James, Harris Allan, Beau Starr, Laurie Brunetti
Directed by Dario Argento
Expectations: Low. I’m still interested in Argento, but he’s done me wrong more often than not.
Jenifer is an interesting Masters of Horror episode, and certainly a good one when compared to the usual quality of these, but what really holds it back is its ridiculously predictable storyline. Literally within the first few minutes I had already guessed (correctly) how the story would end. This makes the task of watching Jenifer a bit of a pointless endeavor, but at least it’s respectably well made, something I can’t say for every episode of the series. For obvious reasons, I’ll refrain from relating any of the plot, as knowing anything would spoil the whole thing.
Jenifer is arguably the best looking Masters of Horror episode yet, featuring none of the visual jank and cheap CG art that has cropped up in varying degrees in every previous episode. The cinematography is nice and the shots are mostly interesting. I also didn’t get the claustrophobic feel that most of the other episodes gave me. The only computer imagery I noticed was a fly bothering two men while eating in the opening moments. Everything else was realized in the real world by KNB FX in stunning, graphic detail. This episode probably has the most graphic gore I’ve seen in the series so far, with severed torsos, entrails and chopped up bodies showing up often. It all looks incredibly convincing and horrific, but because I didn’t care much for the characters, it wasn’t particularly effective in scaring or creeping me out. At the end of the day, gore is great, but I want some story to go with it. That being said, I welcome a fun gorefest with only a modicum of story. Key word being fun.
In addition to the thin story (it was adapted from a ten-page comic), some of the dialogue and the accompanying acting are as horrific as the gory visuals. It’s not enough to keep anyone away or make me think of Troll 2, but it is enough to yank you out of the scene, perhaps eliciting a groan and a loss of respect for the film. It does feel like an Argento film though, even without Goblin and his trademark first-person POV shots. There is one track of the musical score that’s highly reminiscent of Goblin’s Suspiria score when a child’s voice and tinkly bells punctuate tender moments, but everything else is pretty standard horror music.
According to the World Wide Web, Jenifer was the only aired episode of the Masters of Horror series that had to be edited for release. Two scenes were cut, both revolving around perverted depictions of oral sex. I haven’t seen the footage that was cut (it was later released on the DVD), but I find it somewhat disturbing that there are no issues with a child’s severed torso being furiously devoured in stunning realism, but somewhat graphic depictions of sex are taboo and strictly forbidden. I’m sure the footage was unnecessary (I certainly didn’t feel the movie required it), but it just strikes me as an interesting balance of priorities that the American censors have.
Jenifer isn’t anything spectacular because of its story issues, but it is well made and Argento fans should definitely give it a spin. Don’t expect anything special, but from what I gather, most of his late period stuff is like that. Oh well… at least it was better than the awful Four Flies on Grey Velvet.