FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 16, 2006

Day 15- Deja Vu

It's not very often that you see one film blatantly rip off another nearly plot point by plot point. Oh sure, there are derivatives and descendants and homages...and then there's Jennifer (1978). Can you think of any other horror films whose titles are a girl's first name? Hmm? Maybe one that came around two years previous to this one? I'll give you a hint: Brian DePalma's 1976 masterpiece of horror, Carrie, based on the Stephen King book of the same name. Oh, sure, you're thinking...OK, the titles are similar, but surely that's as far as it goes. Well, if you don't believe me, let's just run down the list, shall we?

+outcast girl picked on by more popular schoolmates (Carrie: Sissy Spacek is shy and naive; Jennifer: Lisa Pelikan is a "hillbilly bitch" at a posh school)

+crazy cuckoo nutso religious fanatic single parent (Carrie: mom; Jennifer: dad)

+ally comes in the form of a teacher (Carrie: gym teacher; Jennifer: science teacher)

+big disco dance (Carrie: prom; Jennifer: unidentified party)

+outcast girl reluctant to use mental powers out of fear (Carrie: telekinesis; Jennifer: err...she makes snakes appear and she can command them)

+outcast girl finally pushed to limit and uses powers to exact revenge (Carrie: prom night-n-pigs blood; Jennifer: on a parking garage roof after being kidnapped)

+outcast girl's arch-enemy killed (Carrie: car crash; Jennifer: car crash)

OK, I think I've proved my point. So then, exactly where do these movies differ? Well, most of all it's just a matter of quality. Carrie is one of the best, and Jennifer is a pale imitation. Carrie has the incredible performances by Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving, Brian DePalma's swift direction, the absolutely frightening Piper Laurie, and...Nancy Allen. Jennifer's advantages over its predecessor are:

+liberal use of the word 'skag'

+giant puppet snake head

+Jennifer has her own theme song ("There's magic in your naaaaaame!")

+liberal use of Bert Convy

I love Bert Convy...I don't know why. Maybe because he was such a staple in my formative years, what with the Love Boat appearances and the Win, Lose , or Draw craze and girl, don't even get me started on The Cannonball muthafuckin Run.

The one glaring difference between these two very similar films is the behavior of the title character's antagonists. Sure, Chris is a bitch. It's really, really not cool to throw tampons at someone in the shower, and the whole pig's blood thing was...well, awful and humiliating. But the characters in Carrie are very real- Tommy (William Katt) and Sue (Amy Irving) are kind and sympathetic to Carrie, which in turn counterbalances the behavior of the film's villain, Chris (Nancy Allen). And yeah, she's bitch, but, pig's blood aside, Chris never engaged in much more than teasing and pranks. The impact on Carrie was devastating, but you know, that's the way girls act. Girls are really cruel to each other- even towards their friends, never mind the girl who gets picked on. In fact, the cruelty females exhibit toward one another in adolescence frequently continues on into adulthood. To quote...Will Rogers, I think it was...women are fucked up, dude.

In Jennifer, though, the girls are downright psychopathic. Jennifer's arch-enemy, Sandra (Amy Johnston) will stop at nothing to get Jennifer kicked out of school. She throws Jennifer's clothes in the pool. She cracks eggs on her books. She steals Jennifer's clothes after a swim, takes pictures of the girl while she's naked, and posts them on school bulletin boards. She tries to drown her. She kills Jennifer's favorite cat. Sandra orchestrates the rape of another girl who won't go along with her plans. Eventually she and her mob of thugs kidnap Jennifer in the middle of the night- and if it weren't for Jennifer's magic snake hoodoo saving the day, we can assume the plan was to kill the poor girl. The teenagers in Jennifer aren't very realistic...I'm not even sure if they're human.

All that said, however, I didn't hate Jennifer. It moved along at a fairly good pace and I actually enjoyed it for some reason. Maybe because I'd seen it all before...or maybe it was the Bert Convy. I give it 6 out of 10 Bolex watches.


Anonymous said...

I thought you might appreciate this, F.G. -- I know it was a nice Halloween surprise for me:

Anonymous said...

Bert Convy fu, as Joe Bob might say. Let's not forget his 70s game show "Tattletales." I used to watch that everyday, along with "Match Game 73...and 74...and 75....and..."

Anonymous said...

I have not seen this movie.
Two thoughts occurred to me while reading your synopsis of it.

First, as you describe nut-case Sandra's over the top behavior against Jennifer-- after the first three or four things you listed, I'm thinking, wouldn't it be something if Sandy just was, totally in LOVE with Jennifer, but being psychotic she just had a bad way of showing it? But the more homicidal stunts she pulled sort of scratched that idea...
Second, I thought, with all the things you listed that Sandra did, I wonder if the movie could've just as easily focused more on Sandra, and we never know of Jennifer's special powers until she goes berserk!
Wouldn't THAT be an interesting twist, huh?
"How the hell did she--? What? Snakes? WTF!!??"

Kind of like the one Archie comic book story I read and it turned out that Betty discovers that she's psychic?! Now, i don't read Archie comics at all on a regular basis, but as far as I know, they never followed up on her psychic abilities after that...

Amanda By Night said...

I'm going to have to disagree (again) with you my love. Although I absolutely understand where you're coming from, I don't think the bad girl in Jennifer is too off base. We're talking about a girl who constantly lies (and does vicious things to back it up) to cover up her end. Remember when she told them she slept with John Travolta (there's a Carrie wink, wink)? I think her lies make her more human, she desperately wants to fit in too. Lots of girls do that. I also think Nancy Allen is a total nutjob. I mean we're talking about a girl who harasses someone and then in her twisted mind she blames Carrie for being nixed from the prom. Plus she was OBSESSED with Carrie before that. I mean, it was ALL she could think about.

I think both girls were equally freaky and both saw something in the unpopular girl that they were jealous of and chose to destroy.

I love Jennier. Lisa Pelikan's performance is tops and I think it's a wonderful film, especially the giant puppet snake head!

I loved your review, you picked up some nice stuff and yes Bert Convey is a GOD!

Amanda By Night

Amanda By Night said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stacie Ponder said...

Oh yeah? Well I'm gonna disagree with you! :P

I DO thing Chris was obsessed with Carrie, and yes, Sandra was in turn obsessed with Jennifer. Whether out of jealousy or something else, who can say. Sandra was probably deep down insecure due to her feelings of "abandonment" from her too-busy, always-away parents, and she felt a need to bully and be in charge and control everyone around her just because. Jennifer actually stood up to her, and it pissed Sandra off. I agree with you- all that makes Sandra more human. I think the "need to destroy" is real, but the way in which she chose to do it made it movie material, I guess, and it seemed a bit much to me.

I just don't see throwing someone's clothes into the pool escalating into trying to drown someone in the pool in a normal bitchy girl...nor do I see "getting someone in trouble" escalating to killing animals and orchestrating rape...that's getting into some serious psychopathic serial killer shit there. And the fact that Sandra's boyfriend goes ahead and rapes someone just because she said to- that's scary as well.

I don't know where you grew up, but when I was in high school when girls didn't like each other they'd spread nasty rumors, sling insults, and talk smack. There was no animal butchery, rape, or attempted murder that I know of.

Hey, anonymous- that's an awesome link!! Thanks times ten million!

Theron, I'm obsessed with Match Game. Give me Charles Nelson Reilly wearing a necktie as a headband and I'm in heaven, baby!

cattleworks, +15 points to you for a Betty & Veronica reference.

Stacie Ponder said...

Amanda, I WILL agree with you that Lisa Pelikan gave a good performance in this. So did Amy Johnston, come to think of it.

Amanda By Night said...


I actually went to a terrifying school. No joke. We had two students shot and murdered on the school yard, another kid scarred during a gang initiation, one kid stabbed in the arm with a hyperdermic needle. Vegas also has the famous Show and Tell Murder where two teens killed someone and then brought their friends around to see the body. So yeah, it was a bit like Jennifer, now that I think about it! ;)

Pigs blood, schmigs blood. :)

Thanks for not hating me...

Anonymous said...

No wonder slasher movies are a welcome escape!

YES! 15 more points!

Stacie Ponder said...

Amanda, I never said I didn't hate you. I hate everybody whose opinion differs from mine. This is the internet, after all.


Amanda By Night said...

How I long for your acceptance...

Jennifer is kind of boring and Bert Convey is GOD.

Can I hang with the cool kids now! :)

Stacie Ponder said...

Aw, you're always The Coolest Kid.