Jennifer (1978)

Rating:

USA. 1978.

Crew

Director – Brice Mack, Screenplay – Kay Cousins Johnson, Story/Producer – Steve Krantz, Photography – Irv Goodnoff, Music Supervisor – Jerry Styner, Special Effects – Charles Nixon & Bruce Steinheimer. Production Company – AIP

Cast

Lisa Pelikan (Jennifer Baylor), Amy Johnston (Sandra Tremayne), Louise Hoven (Jane Delano), Bert Convy (Jeff Reed), Jeff Corey (Luke Baylor), Nina Foch (Mrs Calley), John Gavin (Senator Tremayne), Ray Underwood (Dayton Powell), Lillian Randolph (Martha)


Plot

Though coming from a hillbilly background, Jennifer Baylor has won a scholarship to the exclusive Green View girls’ school. Bitchy senator’s daughter Sandra Tremayne resents Jennifer’s background and determines to humiliate and embarrass her. As Sandra’s humiliations become more spiteful and malicious, Jennifer seeks refuge in the beliefs of the backwoods church in which she grew up. In the church, she had the ability to handle snakes and remain unharmed due to her purity of heart. Finally, Jennifer stands up to take revenge against her tormentors, manifesting hordes of snakes to attack them.


Let us state it clearly up front – Jennifer is a blatant rip-off of Carrie (1976). Besides both having single word girl’s name titles, Jennifer also copies Carrie‘s plot of having a downtrodden teenage girl picked on by a group of bullying girls at the school she attends who plot elaborate schemes to heap increasing humiliations on her. (Like the other Carrie copy The Initiation of Sarah (1978), Jennifer substitutes an exclusive boarding school for Carrie‘s public school, in this case casting Jennifer as a hillbilly outsider, which serves to increase the story’s conflict by casting it across rich-poor class lines). Furthermore, Jennifer has mental abilities – the ability to handle snakes vs Carrie’s psychokinetic abilities – and the climax of either film features the downtrodden heroine exacting revenge against her tormentors by unleashing her abilities. Other similarities verge on the plagiaristic – Jennifer, like Carrie, has also been raised by a crazed fundamentalist single parent. Perhaps the other amusing difference between Jennifer and Carrie is that when Amy Johnston drops the name of John Travolta as one of the celebrities she has slept with, you can see that in the time between when Carrie was made, where Travolta was a supporting player, and the time that Jennifer has come out two years later, Travolta has gone from unknown to a superstar name.

In the title role of Jennifer is the lovely Lisa Pelikan, an actress that one has always thought should have become better known than she is. Alas, Lisa Pelikan is miscast here. She is simply too beautiful and too normal seeming to convincingly play the bullied underdog. By comparison, Sissy Spacek was perfectly cast in the title role in Carrie because she looked like a perpetual shy wallflower. Lisa Pelikan at least does okay with the role, while Louise Hoven also engenders sympathy as the equally downtrodden Jane.

Where Jennifer falls down completely, aside from its unimaginative derivativeness, is that it has substituted Brian De Palma’s dazzlingly stylistic directorial flourish for the anonymous tv-styled direction of Brice Mack. Indeed, in terms of pacing and camera set-ups, Jennifer looks for all the world looks like a tv movie (it isn’t). Brice Mack tries to mimic some of De Palma’s style at the climax, using coloured lights, artful lens flare, backlights and slow motion (all of which looks like cheap 1970s drug trip psychedelia) in an absurd sequence that involves Lisa Pelikan throwing snakes at her tormentors. This is followed by a laughable scene where a giant snake appears, crushes Ray Underwood and then materialises in the backseat of chief bully Amy Johnston’s car, causing her to crash.


Full film available online here:-


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