Masters of Horror: Jenifer Review

So Hideous my Love

This little film here ladies and gentlemen, this little film is one nasty piece of work. As a lover of exploitation and obscure cinema, I have seen some truly revolting things in my time as a horror critic. But I’d have to say, even to a mind as rotten as my own, Jenifer is absolutely disgusting. I remember first seeing this episode as a 14-year-old and throwing up in my mouth a little. Upon re-watching it almost five years later, well lets just say Jenifer hasn’t gotten any prettier. Masters_of_horror_episode_jenifer_DVD_cover_art

How the hell they got this thing on television, even on a channel like Showtime, is beyond me. The mix of violence, gratuity, porno levels of sex, and all around repulsiveness is beyond any scripted program I’ve ever seen on television. Even ten years since it’s release, no TV episode has ever made me want a long shower as much as Jenifer.

Based on a now classic comic from 70’s horror magazine Creepy, Dario Argento’s first Masters of Horror episode follows the misadventures of the titular she-devil and Frank Spivey, the poor cop who falls under her spell. But while love is something that be-witches the mightiest of men, most seductress’s don’t look like the fine dame featured here.

 

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Damn! This bitch wasn’t hit with the ugly stick, she was beaten half to death with the ugly sledgehammer. Strangely enough though, Jenifer’s rack is rockin’ and her booty is fine as a summer wine; its the face that poses a real problem. Well that, and a tendency to murder and cannibalize the neighbors.

The lurid acts don’t simply stop at murder though. Remember when I said porno-levels of sex? Put two and two together yet? If so, then congratulations! Go ahead and take a few moments to hurl up your lunch (and your breakfast…and maybe the previous nights dinner). For the rest of you lot, there’s no way of putting this nicely; Jenifer and Frank have nasty, nasty sex, and lots of it. I’ve seen German Fetish porn that’s made me less hot around the color than Jenifer. And I promise you, it’s even worse than what your thinking. A lot worse.

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     You see, Jenifer is a siren of sorts, a mute, drooling monster that preys on men, evoking a supernatural lust and destroying their lives, one murder at a time. What exactly the meth toothed madam is, if she’s human at all, is never fully explained. Whatever her issues are, Jenifer is the thing in this episode that really pops out, an instantly and horrifyingly memorable creation. Dario Argento is a director whose crafted some truly scary female characters  (i.e Suspiria), but Jenifer just might be the scariest lady he’s ever put on-screen.

         That being said, there are a handful of moments that might go just a little too far. I’m a pretty jaded guy, but there are a few scenes in here that REALLY straddle the line. Showtime evidently felt the same way; not counting Takashi Miike’s Imprint, which was pulled out right (we’ll open that can of worms at a later date) Jenifer was the only episode of Master of Horror’s first season that required cuts. Somewhat ironically the two trimmed scenes, available on the DVD, both featured oral sex, albeit in slightly different contexts.

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         But it’s not the bloody blowjobs I’m not cool with, or even the graphic, stanky ass love juices; it’s the violence against children. The dude getting, uh… pleasured,  in that picture up there is a very young-looking high school student. So yeah, having any amount of sexualized violence inflicted against him is maybe a little on the creepy side, especially in the unrated version where we actually see his underage Johnson chopped off and viciously devoured. Uncomfortable as it is though that’s not the scene that left a really bad taste in my mouth, even if it probably let an awful one in Jenifers (Badum Tish!).

     What really plowed past the boundaries of good taste for me comes about halfway though the episode, where Jenifer attacks a little girl, rips open her stomach and chows down on her pre-pubescent intestines, with the poor child’s mutilated and cannibalized corpse on prominent display. Look guys, I’m no prude, and I don’t think kids should always get a safe card in movies; two of my favorite horror movies of all time, The Children and Trick ‘r Treat, both prominently feature youngins’ in peril. But Jenifer makes the mistake of not justifying its gratuity.

       Even in A Serbian Film, the horrible things on-screen in that film serve a purpose. Sure, watching a child brutally killed will always get a reaction, but here it’s a cheap one, like the carnival geek who bites the heads off of chickens. It’s not the fact the girl is young that’s the problem; it’s that the violent nature of her death doesn’t serve a narrative purpose.

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          Unfortunately, the gratuitous killing of that child kind of sums up Jenifer as a whole. As effective as it is in generating disgust, as a narrative piece of work, this is very much a case of style over substance. Argento has always been a very visual director, but here his work hits just one note; repulsion. But once the tunes been played, Jenifer ultimately reveals itself to be bland and predictable, with a story far less interesting than the violence it contains; hell, even the violence and raunchy sex starts getting old by the end, and I’m a dude who LOVES violence and raunchy sex.

         Jenifer is a fantastic monster, truly one of the most revolting creatures ever put to horror, but she’s deserves better than the mediocre, under-written TV episode Argento has her slapped into. Maybe directing an hour long feature based on a ten page comic wasn’t the best idea after all.

             Jeff is a writer for The Blood Shed and eats, drinks, and bleeds horror. You can follow him on Instagram @thatjeffreyguy

 

9 Comments on this post.

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  • jonnyrp
    4 February 2016 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    I did like it for my part. Not the best MOH episode, but still a beautiful one imo. It is disgusting but to its own merit, i like the fact that men still want to save her before they actually know the truth about her. And yes, many men (if not every man) would react the same.

    Fair review though. It’s not the best story out there, it quickly becomes about the pace of the horror instead of how you could develop it as a psychological story in a 2 hours film. But in terms of gruesome, let’s not forget that Takashe Miike’s Imprint episode couldn’t be aired on TV. It’s not Cigarette Burns (Carpenter’s), Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen’s) and neither is it Imprint but it’s still holds up in my top5 MOH episodes.

    • Jeffrey Scott
      4 February 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment jonnyrp. I appricate the feedback. Personally, I find this worse than Imprint in terms of disturbing content; the sex mized with violence, while present in Imprint really stood out for me here. And I didn’t hate this episode. I think it could have been better, but overall at least very memorably gruesome. And I do like how the men try and save her despite her ugliness. It shows a good light in their character

  • Ash
    4 February 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    I thought this was one of the tamer Masters of Horror episodes, the first one with Moonface was pretty explicit, and Cigarette Burns was as well. Sick Girl with Angela Bettis is probably my favorite, Family was good too… but all in all, not that shocking. Compare it to American Horror Story – much more gore and disturbing content than any Masters of Horror episode. If you feel like not sleeping, try watching the original French version of Martyrs – that’s the only horror film that ever actually bugged me (I laughed my way through A Serbian Film and all the Human Centipedes). Enjoy!

  • Ash
    4 February 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Oh, and I met the chick who played Jenifer years ago (2006ish) at a horror expo while helping at William Lutiz’s booth… she’s very pretty and nice in person. 😛

  • Jeffrey Scott
    4 February 2016 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    That’s awesome man. I’d love to ask her how playing such a gruesome character was. And for me, I think it was the sex mixed with the violence, as well as watching Jenifer have sex that made this hard to watch personally. While there were certainly more violent episodes (Pelts lol), this one had the mixture of sex and gore that really grossed me out. And Ive seen most of the New French Extremity. Martyrs is a hell of a lot bloodier than this, Ill agree.

  • Malachi
    6 February 2016 at 2:36 am - Reply

    I don’t think Jenifer went far enough…

    • Jeffrey Scott
      7 February 2016 at 12:45 am - Reply

      Haha jeez man your pretty dark then

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