Jennifer, Stefanie, and Joey are making a movie. But soon the lines between what is a movie and what is real begin to disappear. And when making a horror movie, that can be a difference between life and death.
One of the gimmicks in Tom Six’s Human Centipede trilogy – outside of sewing mouths to anuses – is how each film literally influences the next. In Human Centipede 2, the first film exists as a piece of fiction that acts as a catalyst for the depraved cravings of parking attendant, Max (Laurence R. Harvey). In Human Centipede 3, both of its predecessors are works of fiction within in its universe that light a fire in the belly of the deranged warden, Bill (Dieter Laser). For all the film’s faults, something is satisfying about how quickly Six establishes the rules of each individual story, so you can watch either one of them without seeing the others.
This reminiscence about body horror comes to mind when watching For Jennifer, the directorial debut of Jody Barton (Ugly Sweater Party). For you see For Jennifer is both a standalone movie and the fourth part of an overall creative endeavour which started back in 2013. To Jennifer, directed by James Cullen Bresseck and starring Barton, was a horror film entirely shot on iPhone. 2016 saw the release of 2 Jennifer, directed by Hunter Johnson (Irrational Fear), wherein two directors try to make the perfect sequel to To Jennifer with deadly results.
A year later, director Frank Merle (The Employer) picked up the ball with From Jennifer, a spiritual sequel about fame. Confused? Don’t be. For Jennifer doesn’t expect you to be keeping up. Like the Human Centipede films, it’s just a touch more fun if you’ve done your research.
Tiffani Fest (Krampus: The Devil Returns) plays Jennifer, a horror blogger who receives the rather unusual gift of a USB for her birthday. Loaded onto the USB is a copy of horror film which manages to unnerve the writer. Like a visual earworm, Jennifer can’t shake the effect the film has had on her and soon decides to make her own horror movie. Taking on the role of Jennifer herself, Jennifer ropes in her boyfriend Joey (Rich Finley, The Midnight Man) to star in the film as well, and gets her friend Stefanie (Lanett Tachel, Lovejacked) to produce and co-write the thing. It’s not long before things start going awry before leading to a bloody and confrontational ending. Cue the dun, dun duuuuuuuuuun.
Like the other films in the series, For Jennifer is entirely shot on iPhones which, from a technical point of view, will be enough for some to get bums on seats. Hey, if it’s good enough for Steven Soderbergh, it’s good enough for anyone, right? Despite the film’s obvious found footage aesthetic, Barton tries to do something more than just plonk the camera/phone on a table and yell action.
Okay, so he does do that, but he also plays with the notion of found footage; literally fast-forwarding through bits that would be deemed boring by the casual viewer, using split-screen to gain a different perspective. It makes the whole piece feel more cinematic in scope. Likewise, the cast certainly brings their A-game to the table, and it’s always welcoming to have a screenplay that isn’t just an excuse to have people screaming into a camera about something that’s happening off-screen.
However, it’s fair to say that if you’ve never been on the found footage bandwagon, this is unlikely to change your mind. As with all these films, you do find yourself having to make allowances to for leaps of logic and questioning why anyone would keep filming so often.
There’s also the issue that while For Jennifer is a standalone movie, there are moments that won’t have as much impact if you haven’t seen the other films. Overall, a mixed bag of treats but one worth pursuing.