Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #296
Season 1 Episode 4
Number of Views: One
Release Date: November 18, 2005
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 60 minutes
Director: Dario Argento
Producers: Lisa Richardson, Tom Rowe
Screenplay: Mick Garris, Steven Weber, Bruce Jones
Story: Bruce Jones, Berni Wrightson
Special Effects: Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger
Cinematography: Attila Szalay
Score: Claudio Simonetti
Editing: Marshall Harvey
Studio: Reunion Pictures
Stars: Steven Weber, Carrie Fleming, Laurie Brunetti, Kevin Crofton, Beau Starr, Julia Arkos, Jasmine Chan, Brenda James, Harris Allan, Matt Garlick, Mark Acheson, Cynthia Garris, Jeffrey Ballard, Brad Mooney, Riley Ruckman, Jano Frandsen
Suggested Audio Candy
Claudio Simonetti “Jenifer”
We’ve all taken in a waif or stray at some point. When I was merely five I decided, much to my parents’ outright mortification, that a disemboweled rodent which had been discarded at the bottom of the garden path would make a splendid domestic pet. It didn’t. While my loved ones panicked and threw up in their mouths, I found my little rat comrade both majestic and individual. Sure, its guts were on the outside and it had one screaming eye which suggested it had seen rather a merciless end, but to me he was hard not to love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we all have a different perception of what is desirable in a potential match. Society constantly attempts to influence our choices; telling us to look this way or that, shed a few pounds, wear more make-up and flattering colors. Its influences are there should we wish to take them but we all have the right to free thinking, choosing our own mate and treading our own path towards personal contentment. Whether we use that grant or not is ultimately our decision to make.
I empathize with Frank Spivey, I really do. A chance encounter with an unusual girl changes the whole ballgame for Frank and his normal everyday existence is obliterated. Up until their meeting, By all accounts, Frank is your average Joe. Scrolling through the motions and getting nowhere fast. Indeed, Dario Argento’s Jenifer begins with Frank and his partner knocking back some carbs in their squad car on mutual auto-pilot before happening upon an ad hoc execution in the vicinity. After a less than divine intervention which leaves the shady looking one-man death squad dead, Frank is introduced to Jenifer. Jenifer is a beautiful young woman with long flowing flaxen locks and pelt as soft as a peach ; the kind of girl you would pick up in a nightclub after your fifteenth shot of tequila and feel reasonably pleased with your acquisition. Take her home and you’re in for a shock come sunrise as certain lighting accentuates her beauty and this is called shadow. Once the cock crows and you rub the sleep from your eyes to reveal her morning face, you’ll be tee-total for the foreseeable.
So what does Frank do? He takes her home. Still reeling from his first ever kill as a police officer and genuinely moved by the girl’s plight, he decides to offer a hand. At first it appears fairly innocuous, just a good deed from one human being to another. Jenifer is timid and hesitant, evidently still traumatized by her near-death experience. She is also mute which removes small talk from the agenda but Frank is unfazed as they have begun to form an understanding; a language spoken through glancing fingertips and soft nuzzles. As one would imagine, this is much to Frank’s wife’s bemusement, where their grungy teenage son is just fascinated by the bare flesh Jenifer feels most comfortable in. The Spiveys also have a family feline…for the next few minutes at least. It isn’t long before Jenifer begins working her way up the pecking order and Frank has some serious explaining to do.
Their relationship intensifies; as much as he is horrified by her poor etiquette and the fact that she clearly isn’t a cat person, he cannot withstand her siren-like charm and the next logical step for their relationship is to unify the flesh. He takes the rough with the smooth and samples her forbidden fruits while the final remnants of a life now passed dissipate around him. His future is with Jenifer; it always was. From the moment he saved her from a callously distributed fate the two have been inexplicably joined and nothing else matters any more. Love is blind but can also see past the superficial; the chemistry between the two is far too burly to ignore and, when she’s not chowing down on wayward children, she is obedient and loyal in the extreme. Her life, her continuation, is in his hands and this begins to present something of a headache to the pole-axed cop as he has the ability to snuff her out at anytime and this begins to look increasingly necessary as home schooling isn’t going to plan.
Argento’s primary entry into the Masters of Horror series is reasonably strong. It’s late night cable fodder at heart and not the vehicle for those looking to explore the work of the Italian for the first time. There are little flashes of typical Argento littered throughout but this bittersweet love story belongs wholly to our downtrodden succubus. Her eyes, black as coal, communicate for her entire face which is possibly a good thing seeing as she would never make it as a public speaker. Steven Weber, who also co-writes, is good value as her conflicted keeper but its the performance of young Carrie Fleming as the libidinous morlock which resonates most. One minute she’s coy and playful and, the next, she’s got a mouthful of entrails. But for all the atrocities she is culpable of, we still find ourselves caring although, like Frank, we’re not quite ready to unveil her in public. Closed doors can be a God-send.
We’ve already ascertained that she considers cats to be a delicacy but this also extends to small children and pretty much anything with a pulse come to think of it. Dinnertime is a messy affair as you would expect from Argento and the combined practical prowess of Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger is more than enough to make every gruesome reality exactly that. As for Jenifer’s make-up; it’s absolutely top draw and her twisted features are gloriously realized. The plot itself is a little simplistic, hardly brimming with ingenuity, but it does offer an interesting take on an age-old theme. Overall it’s fairly good value for its 60 minute running time and probably best suited to a short as it would have needed a lot of work to pad out that additional thirty minutes. Those questioning whether Argento has still got it after a dry fifteen years may not find the answers here but you will find a bittersweet fable with heart and one of the stronger early installments of Masters of Horror to boot.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: One of only two Masters of Horror episodes which fell foul of the censors although you wouldn’t think so by the amount of grue on the platter. Jenifer binges like she’s bulimic and everything is fair game from cats and kids to side-show owners and randy teenagers’ special purposes. Argento has never been shy when it comes to delighting in the female form in all its beauty and, from the neck down, Jenifer is built by the Gods.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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