2 JENNIFER

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

Here’s a twist: a film shot on an iPhone about making a sequel to a film shot on an iPhone. James Cullen Bressack’s ballsy 2013 film was a minor hit (and the first film made completely using the phone), and this very self-aware follow-up manages to not only improve on the original but also up the stakes greatly.

Spencer (writer/director Johnson) is a massive fan of Bressack’s film To Jennifer and has secured the rights to make a remake, and has got his friend Mack (Coupe) along as a producer. Spencer assures Mack that Bressack is on board and will be joining them for the auditions, but when he doesn’t show, they go ahead without him. While trying the actors out for the titular role, Spencer becomes increasingly edgy, refusing to even entertain one artist. He’s already insisted that they be called Jennifer for authenticity, and since he will be playing the male role himself, Spencer gets intensely involved with the auditions. The Jennifer they choose for the role (Mummert) is keen and, as ‘luck’ would have it, is also an old friend of one of the stars of the original film. When she and Mack appear to be hitting it off and she also blags the pair an invite to a party Bressack will be attending, the venture begins to spiral out of control.

As ‘meta’ films go, 2 Jennifer is king. Opening with a montage of talking heads espousing the virtues of the original (and the odd one taking the more negative slant), we are soon plunged into a fly on the wall world that takes the ‘video diary’ approach of To Jennifer to the extreme. Spencer is intent on filming every aspect of the film's production on his phone - from production meetings to the auditions and beyond. The film itself is meant to be utilising professional cameras, but we never get that far.

As Spencer, the multi-talented Johnson is superb; he’s intensely obsessed about the project from the start, a fixation bordering on the unhinged, which unsurprisingly will become clearer as the film goes on. Having some of the original talent from the first film is a masterstroke (much like the self-referential Human Centipede films) and, in particular, Bressack (who doesn’t particularly portray himself in a positive light). Although it’s all filmed in the same lo-fi manner, there are occasional cutaways and alternate angles as other phone cameras are used, but they are not too distracting and on the whole, it’s wel executed and surprisingly engaging.

Where the first film was a road movie video diary, the ‘found footage’ conceit works much better with the sequel and, dare we say it, actually comes across as believable. We know something’s amiss, but until the denouement, we can’t quite figure out what. The truth is more shocking than anything we could guess, no matter how much foreshadowing we’ve had.

Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and Erin Marie Hogan (House of Manson) make appearances during the audition sequence, but their familiarity doesn’t throw the authenticity, mainly due to the ‘behind the scenes of the movie’ feel.

It’s refreshing to have a sequel work so well and for it actually not be essential that one has seen the original. Ultimately, it’s a more enjoyable ride than the first, with a payoff that packs quite a wallop.

Extras: commentary with Hunter Johnson, James Cullen Bressack, Frank Merle, Lara Jean Mummert / deleted scenes.

2 JENNIFER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: HUNTER JOHNSON / STARS: HUNTER JOHNSON, DAVID COUPE, LARA JEAN MUMMERT, JODY BARTON, JAMES CULLEN BRESSACK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US)

 


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