I’m putting these two together beacuse I probably don’t have that much to say about them, but you can easily point out a theme, which ties these together: sacrificing virgins. Alhtough I do feel bad for putting two female directors together like this, as there isn’t that many of them.
In Satanic Panic, Sam (short for Samantha) is a young pizza courier, who stumbles upon a satanic cult in a gated community populated by the rich. With the help of the high priestess’ daughter (who had just lost her virginity on purpose to avoid the fate Sam is now facing), she tries to escape being sacrificed.
In Jennifer’s Body, we start with Needy, Jennifer’s best friend, in a mental asylum. We than move backwards in time to see how she ended up in there. Jennifer was offered as a human sacrifice by a band, but as she wasn’t really a virgin, she ended up possessed instead.
Virginity has been seen as a very precious commodity. There still are a lot of countries where women can get their hymens reconstructed to seem like virgins on their wedding night. In the past, in the US, some women would sue men for breaking engagements, because it was seen as a contract binding enough to start having sex. If we look at the world from the twisted point of view of the people in the past, this was understandable when women were seen as property. (Just for those of you who are thick enough out there: There is a difference between understanding points of view and agreeing with them. I don’t agree that owning people is acceptable.) Before DNA testing virginity was seen as the best way to make sure the children, at least the first one, was by the husband.
Why does Satan or similar entities see virginity as important? I mean, if there’s a risk of being sacrificed because of it, shouldn’t you get rid of it? But you can’t because your father thinks it’s valuable, a selling point to prospective husbands. Is it any wonder I can’t stand organized religion? It’s nothing more than a form of social control. Well, it’s more than that, but the other aspects aren’t that good either.
But why does this still interest people enough to be major themes in horror movies? Obviously Satanic Panic hasn’t been seen by that many people, but Jennifer’s Body has become a cult hit despite a weak performance at the box office. It should be noted that this might be a mystery to me, but as mentioned above both of these movies were directed by women, so it’s quite possible that they had more insight into this than I do. I mean, no one would ever have put a price on my virginity (and if someone had tried, it would probably have been equivalent of a loaf of bread). Do women in America still feel like there are expectations on their virginal status? There has been a lot of talk about Britney Spears recently and I do remember how she was treated. There was so many people who just thought she remained a 16-year-old virgin for like five years. Someone (Diane Sawyer?) even asked her straight-up whether she was still a virgin.
Early on in Satanic Panic there’s a scene where Sam is put into room to wait for her sacrifice. There’s a man waiting, who is also waiting for his death. He offers to deflower Sam and well… more than offers. It’s a weird scene. The man is trying to rape Sam as a favor to her. She doesn’t really believe that she is about to be sacrificed, so she is not really open to the idea of being raped. I guess this is meant to be funny, but this is quite uncomfortable.
I guess it’s my male perspective that leaves me less uncomfortable when Jennifer uses her unnatural strength to force herself on Chip, Needy’s boyfriend. This also leaves Chip dead.
Why can we find death fun, but rape not? This has a lot to do with depictions. Somehow we have learned to make kills enjoyable, but rape seems to be out of reach in this regard. Not that I’m calling for anyone to learn. In real life rapes are not even always prosecuted or they are downplayed as “boys will be boys”, while we do take murders very seriously. At the same time, men don’t have the same kind of sexual autonomy in movies. Prison rapes are presented as funny. (Not in these movies, but in general.)
Both of these movies are enjoyable. Light, fun horror with comedic elements. Both do also have messages, but about different subjects. While I emphasized the virginity aspect, Satanic Panic is much more about the rich taking advantage of the poor (although the initial target is the high priestess’s daughter, which muddles the situation) and Jennifer’s Body is much more about the difficulty of moving into womanhood. At least that’s how I read it. It might not be as good at this (or in general) as Ginger Snaps, for example, but it does work. If you’ve bothered to read this and haven’t seen it, you probably should give it a chance.