Trivia The scene cut is Jenifer eating the young boy’s penis after giving him a cannibal blowjob. According to Greg Nicotero, it looked more ridiculous than gory because he used the Dirk Diggler prosthetic from Boogie Nights.
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Masters of Horror: Jenifer (2005)
2nd Dec 05
A young girl known only as Jenifer drifts from place to place seducing older men. Her lust for sexual pleasure is matched only by her craving for human flesh.
Review Masters Of Horror is the new Showtime series which has just debuted on television screens across the United States. This initial run of thirteen stand alone hour long episodes features original stories from many of the big names of the genre including Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Roger Corman, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, Takashi Miike and George A. Romero, amongst others.
I was lucky enough to see a preview of Dario Argento's Jenifer at the recent FrightFest event in Brighton, only the second time that this particular episode has been shown on the big screen ahead of its televisual broadcast. The screening was preceded by a personal message from Dario in which he said how much he’d enjoyed working on the series and asserted to all the males in the audience that if we were ever to meet Jenifer in person then, well… we would, wouldn’t we? Perhaps of greater interest was his announcement that he’s just started work on Mother Of Tears, the third part of his ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy (following Suspiria and Inferno) – welcome news to many giallo fans around the world.
But until then we have Jenifer to consider. Sleepless aside, in my opinion Dario has lost his mojo in the last decade and it’s sad to report that this too falls into his ‘jobbing’ workmanlike oeuvre alongside his more recent cinematic work of Do You Like Hitchcock? and The Card Player. Jenifer (Carrie Anne Fleming) is a beautiful young lady who's rescued from a mad axeman by Frank (Steven Weber), a local cop. Well, when I say she's beautiful she has the body of a goddess... but unfortunately she also has the face of a circus freak. Imagine Courtney Love after a seriously heavy night on the tiles and you'll be halfway there. Despite the fact that Frank already has a loving family, he's entranced by Jenifer and takes her under his wing and into his home. The fact that she seduces him night after night probably has a lot to do with why he’s so keen to keep her around – hey, he’s just a typical bloke and if the lady is up for a bit of illicit lovin’, then that ugly mug isn’t going to stop Frank from taking advantage! This being a horror tale it doesn't take us long to realise that Jenifer has issues, and the moment she starts drooling at the sight of raw meat you just know that Frank's got himself into a whole world of trouble.
The tale of the siren who lures lustful men to their death is nothing new, but this is a slightly different spin on the story - and an interesting riff on the traditional Beauty And The Beast tale. However that doesn't hide the fact that this is an utterly predictable drama, and I guarantee that you'll have guessed the ending within the first five minutes. Discussing Jenifer with my fellow audience members afterwards it was apparent that the majority of them were unimpressed, but I have to admit I quite enjoyed it – although probably for all the wrong reasons. First and foremost it’s just not scary - I found myself laughing my way through for the most part... erm, this isn't supposed to be 'Masters Of Comedy' or did I misread the opening credits? The main problem is Jenifer’s character; she behaves like a naughty puppy, so she’s constantly switching from being all coy and playful, to misbehaving and getting herself into trouble. It’s hardly the stuff of nightmares, playing out more like a black comedy.
Whilst Carrie Anne Fleming merely has perfect her cowgirl technique and whimper a lot, Steven Weber has a lot more work to do here, but unfortunately he’s another of Dario’s rather wooden male leads (I still have nightmares about Julian Sands’ performance in his Phantom Of The Opera adaptation). Weber - who also wrote the teleplay, in addition to taking the leading role - was obviously concentrating on making sure his character got laid as often as possible rather than focussing on actual dialogue and character development. Apart from the frequent sex, you have to question why Frank remains so obsessed when faced with Jenifer’s increasingly erratic behaviour – to the point of leaving his family and holing up with her in a shack out in the middle of nowhere. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the episode as Frank takes a job in a local hardware store, yet the owner doesn't actually ask his name until the following evening... just what kind of crazy recruitment policy are these people operating?
As for Dario's contribution, well, it could be anyone behind the camera - there's none of the visual flair or giallo flavour normally associated with his more celebrated filmography. Jenifer is flat and pedestrian, with only the occasional bit of naked titillation or gore to rouse the viewer. Interestingly, Dario’s episode is the only one of the thirteen which has fallen foul of the censors, with its notorious ‘cock-gobbling’ scene deemed too strong (and too silly, by all accounts) for public consumption. Don’t worry though, there still remains a number of bloody scenes to shock unsuspecting viewers, and they certainly kept the girls sat behind me shrieking out, which to be honest was far more entertaining than listening to the film’s hokey dialogue.
I'm guessing they weren't die-hard horror fans - and maybe that's the whole point? If you're new to the genre then perhaps Masters Of Horror will serve as an introduction to the many talents within the industry, but for seasoned fans - on the evidence of this one episode - it's sadly further proof of how the mighty have fallen. And in answer to Dario’s original question – well, I’m not convinced, I think that Jenifer’s excessive dribbling might just leave you feeling a little flaccid. Mind you, doggy fashion… hmmm… I’ll get back to you on that one, Dario.
Further Information Masters Of Horror will debut on Bravo here in the UK in February, with a full DVD release from Anchor Bay later in 2006.
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