“#FromJennifer” is a found footage horror movie, comedy, and Hollywood satire written and directed by Frank Merle. The film is the third installment of the “Jennifer” horror movie franchise. In this latest film, a woman named Jennifer was recently exploited by her ex-boyfriend and sets out on a mission to get revenge on “crappy boyfriends.”
The Jennifer Franchise is the brainchild of James Cullen Bressack, who wrote and directed the first Jennifer film, To Jennifer (2014). The inaugural film follows a man obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Jennifer. Hunter Johnson directed the second film in the series, 2 Jennifer (2015), which continues the story from To Jennifer (2014).
Director Frank Merle picks up the ball in the first of the next Jenneration of Jennifer films. Unlike the first two films, #FromJennifer takes on a brand new story, so Jennifer virgins won’t miss out if they haven’t seen the first two movies. Frank Merle previously directed the horror film Three Little Creeps (2010) and the thriller, The Employer (2013), starting Malcolm Mcdowell.
A Jennifer By Any Other Name
#FromJennifer opens with a gripping scene of a man and woman tied up in their kitchen. A slasher ceremoniously kills the man and moves on to the woman, brandishing his now bloody knife. Just before he deals his deadly blow, a voice calls out “cut!” The tragic bloodbath is the set of a horror movie.
Shortly thereafter, Jennifer (Danielle Taddei), the female lead is informed by her manager that she was cut from the horror movie. The director decides to go with an actress who is Internet famous, rather than the timid and meek Jennifer. Chad (Tony Todd), Jennifer’s manager tells her that the best chance for success in the industry is to become famous. He advises Jennifer to put herself out there and become known. To make matters worse, Jennifer also learns that her ex-boyfriend posted a sex video of her online, all but destroying her acting career. Things are not looking up for Jennifer.
To Jennifer’s chagrin, the replacement actor is Stephanie Hart (Meghan Deanna), a video blogger and Internet celebrity. Unlike the thoughtful and cerebral Jennifer, Stephanie is completely engrossed in herself and is one fry short of a Happy Meal. Yet, somehow, Stephanie has an enormous following and is a poster child for people who inexplicably go viral. Stephanie’s video blog touches on some of the day’s hottest topics, such as “why you shouldn’t leave a bag of chocolate chips in a hot car.”
What Stephanie lacks in common sense she makes up for in her understanding of how to obtain the attention of the masses. Jennifer sees this quality in Stephanie and befriends her. Stephanie, in turn, sees Jennifer’s social shortcomings and takes her on as a pet project.
What Stephanie and the rest of the world don’t realize is that Jennifer is looking for a lot more than Internet fame. Jennifer has a plan to exact revenge on all the men that exploited her and will stop at nothing to complete her mission.
Found Footage Cinematography
The found footage cinematography used throughout #FromJennifer is quite good. The footage is primarily filmed with small cube cameras used for video blogging and head-mounted video cameras. To a lesser extent, the #FromJennifer also makes use of webcams and a surveillance camera.
Whenever the characters are on the go, they typically film using a head-mounted video camera. The video quality during these scenes is quite watchable, which must have taken considerable practice since the characters had to keep their heads unflinchingly steady to avoid shakiness. We presume at least some of this footage is filmed with a conventional handheld video camera behind the scenes that was made to look like a head-mounted video camera.
To the credit of director Frank Merle, whenever the characters are stationary for any period of time, they switch from using a body-mounted video camera to a fixed position video camera. During these scenes, Jennifer will often place her Jenni-cam directly on a tabletop or small tabletop tripod. Using a stationary camera has the benefit of ensuring a more stable image and enabling Jennifer and other characters to be in-frame during conversations. Further, fixed position cameras provide a more narrative feel to #FromJennifer while maintaining the film’s found footage conceit.
The filming reasons in #FromJennifer are equally as strong as the cinematography. First and foremost, Jennifer films a video record of the planning and execution of her scheme to get revenge on “crappy boyfriends.” She plans on sharing her videos with the crappy boyfriends of the world “to make sure that they know that there are consequences to their actions.” A second filming reason is that of video blogger Stephanie, who films every aspect of her personal life to post online for her million-plus viewer fan base.
Additional filming reasons are offered that round out the remaining footage. Throughout the film, Jennifer insists that her assistant Butch wears a head-mounted camera, providing additional POVs of the same scene and ensuring there are no gaps in the video record. The actor playing the slasher on the movie set in the opening of #FromJennifer wears a head-mounted camera. This camera cleverly serves as a means of eavesdropping on the backroom conversation where the director secretly discusses Jennifer’s imminent firing from the lead role in the film. Jennifer’s conversations with her agent Chad are conveniently captured using what appears to be a recorded video Skype sessions throughout the film.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity measures how well a film approximates actual found footage. #FromJennifer very intelligently establishes itself as raw footage that was subsequently edited by a third party and posted online for entertainment value. While many found footage films establish in the opening title cards how the raw footage came to be released, #FromJennifer explains this fact during the narrative in the latter part of the film.
Portraying the footage as having been edited for entertainment value enabled Frank Merle to overtly add several of the taboo found footage tropes such as background music and non-diegetic sounds to an otherwise pure found footage film. Even with this liberty to bend the found footage rules, director Frank Merle shows restraint and does not abuse the privilege.
The acting in #FromJennifer is commendable throughout the ensemble cast. Danielle Taddei plays the soft-spoken and humble Jennifer, who finally passes her breaking point from her abusive relationships with men. Jennifer is humiliated when her ex-boyfriend posts a sex video of her online for all to see. Later, a male director tries soliciting Jennifer for sex in exchange for acting work. Finally, Jennifer is dropped by her agent for her unwillingness to play ball in the male-dominated film industry. The culmination of these events pushes Jennifer over the edge and Danielle Taddei does a solid job portraying the revenge stricken Jennifer. Her character maintains Jennifer’s gentle and reserved demeanor, while quietly carrying out her mission for retribution.
Meghan Deanna Smith does a great job as video blogger Stephanie, who is the complete polar opposite of Jennifer. She nails Stephanie’s self-absorbed nature and failing intellect. As for the character, Stephanie, somewhere there’s a village missing an idiot. The scenes where Danielle Taddei and Meghan Deanna Smith play off each other works well due to their two characters’ dichotomy.
Derek Mears is good as Jennifer’s assistant Butch. He effectively plays a gentle giant who is trying his best to serve Jennifer, but always seems to muck things up along the way. Tony Todd performs wonderfully as Jennifer’s manager Chad, the conniving industry veteran who treats his talent roster like chattel, to be traded, used, and discarded.
In all, the Jennifer series is a lot of fun and isn’t to be taken too seriously. The first two films, To Jennifer (2014) and 2 Jennifer (2015), are about men taking revenge on Jennifers. Conversely, #FromJennifer turns the tables, telling a new narrative from the POV of a Jennifer who has the upper hand.
Interestingly, Danielle Taddei portrays Jennifer as the only truly self-aware character in #FromJennifer. The ensemble cast of characters Jennifer encounters throughout the film is too engrossed in their own reality to grasp what’s going on in the world around them. Jennifer cuts through the nonsense and calls out people for who and what they truly are. It’s this self-awareness that enables Jennifer to turn the tables and (quite often sarcastically) manipulate those around her.
Director Franke Merle effectively created a modern horrific twist on Little Red Riding Hood. In this found footage iteration of the classic fairytale, Jennifer, as “Little Red Riding Hood,” is figuratively bitten by the wolf (or wolves in this case) and escapes. In more concrete terms, the wolves are represented by Hollywood and our male-dominated society. In a plot twist that’s definitely not intended for children, Little Red Riding Hood licks her wounds and takes revenge on the unsuspecting wolves—picking them off one by one in classic horror film style.
On a deeper level, #FromJennifer is a satire on Hollywood, Internet fame, male chauvinism, and the belittlement of females. Even though Stephanie is about as sharp as a marble, she still knows how to work a room, and in her own way effectively manipulates the male influences around her. One of Jennifer’s go-to lines throughout the film is her disdain for being called “Jenny,” which she frequently says “is female for donkey”—yet another series of (albeit subtle) male chauvinistic attacks she must rebut.
While #FromJennifer is a fun horror movie/comedy, the feature doesn’t quite stack up to the gregariousness of the original To Jennifer (2014). Nonetheless, #FromJennifer is definitely a film worth checking out, although male viewers may feel compelled to guard their [mild spoiler] Jennitalia towards the latter part of the film. Jennifer fans are encouraged to get their annual Jennifer fix with #FromJennifer, with a release date set for September 26, 2017. And don’t worry about Jennifer withdrawal because 4 Jennifer (2018) is planned for next year!