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Film / Jennifer

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Jennifer is a 1978 horror film directed by former Disney artist Brice Mack.

The story is about Jennifer Baylor (Lisa Pelikan), a rural country girl who wins a scholarship to a prestigious school for the rich. Despite being a top student, Jennifer is hated by most of the other girls, who consider her an outsider. The leader of their clique is the manipulative Sandra Tremayne (Amy Johnston), the daughter of an influential senator who has given the school huge contributions. As such, the school's principal always favors them, letting them get away with murder.

What they don't know is that Jennifer has special powers which give her control over snakes. Jennifer's father raised her as part of a religious cult, and tried to teach her to use her powers in their ceremonies. Unfortunately, it went badly wrong one day, and Jennifer has since repressed all memory of her abilities. Now, as Sandra and her friends torment her to the breaking point, Jennifer starts to remember, and begins to consider unleashing reptilian vengeance on her enemies...


It should be clear by this point where this movie got most of its inspiration from. It's right there on the poster. It also bears similarities to Willard, except with snakes instead of rats.

Tropes present in Jennifer include:

  • Adults Are Useless: When a terrified Jane tries to explain her situation to her mother after being sexually assaulted by Dayton, her mother instead reprimands her for waking her up in the early hours of the morning.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Jennifer's status, due to the other girls despising her for her country background.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sandra Tremaine is one out of your worst nightmare. Given the obvious comparison, it's safe to say that Chris Hargensen herself would probably run screaming away from her.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Jane smiles when Dayton gets his head bitten off.
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  • Asshole Victim: Sandra, Dayton, and Ms. Calley.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Sandra kills Jennifer's beloved cat, and hangs it in her locker for her to find.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sandra, Dayton, and Ms. Calley learn this the hard way once Jennifer's finally had enough of their crap.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Sandra name-drops John Travolta early on in the film (as someone she turned down). Amy Johnston, who played Sandra, had a guest role on Welcome Back, Kotter.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sandra's clique and their boyfriends are fond of racing their cars around a parking garage. It's a frequent haunt for them because there's a disco center at the top. Sure enough, the climax of the film takes place on the roof.
  • Dean Bitterman: Ms. Calley, the principal, is a female version. She considers Jennifer unfit for her school and always takes Sandra's side over hers. She goes so far as to threaten other staff members with dismissal if they don't put up with Sandra's behavior.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The reason Sandra wants to ruin Jennifer's life? She got caught cheating on a test, tried to frame Jennifer for it, and got exposed as a liar. And Jennifer's not the only one who suffers this at her hands. Jane's punishment for trying to defend Jennifer is being raped in an elevator by Sandra's boyfriend.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Turns out picking on a girl who can conjure giant snakes isn't the best idea.
  • Elevator Failure: One of the more horrific examples. Dayton lures Jane into an elevator, then stops it midway before sexually assaulting her.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Sandra gets killed by a giant snake while driving at a high speed. She crashes, her car overturns, then blows up for good measure.
  • Half-Witted Hillbilly: Jennifer averts this, but her bullies use the stereotype to make fun of her, when she's actually quite smart and seems to be a better student than they are.
  • Hate Sink: Sandra and Ms. Calley are absolutely horrible people with zero redeeming qualities. Both their actresses are clearly aware that they're this trope, as they both turn in gleefully evil performances.
  • Kill the Cutie: That poor cat...
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Jennifer's fond of most animals, but she has a special bond with one kitten in particular. So naturally, Sandra kills it and hangs the poor thing's corpse in Jennifer's locker!
  • Laughably Evil: Subverted. Sandra seems like your typical Alpha Bitch, and her actress is so thoroughly enjoying herself that it's hard not to be entertained by her... until she shows us how monstrous she truly is, and it stops being funny in the slightest.
  • My Greatest Failure: When she was a child, Jennifer used to use her power over snakes to impress the other cult members, until she seemingly lost her power, and someone died from snakebite. Her father insists that it was a fluke and she still has her powers. He turns out to be right.
  • Off with His Head!: Jennifer conjures a giant snake to bite Dayton's head off. The last we see of Sandra, she's about to get this as well. Either that, or she died when the car exploded.
  • Rape by Proxy: Sandra convinces her boyfriend Dayton to rape Jane in an elevator.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. Reed, the science teacher. He doesn't look down on Jennifer because of her background, accurately assesses Sandra as a psychopath, and is the only one who seems to realize that there's something a bit off about Jennifer's interest in snakes...
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! / Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Sandra's father is a US Senator who makes a large donation to the school after Sandra gets caught cheating, and is why she gets away with everything.
  • Smug Snake: Ironically, the villains all fall under this. It doesn't stop Sandra from being incredibly dangerous, though.
  • The Sociopath: Sandra, to absolutely horrific levels. Mr. Reed states flat-out that she's this trope, and that's before we find out just how heartless she can be.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Sandra can ham it up, but she can also be disturbingly quiet as she threatens Jennifer.
    "I really don't think you belong here, Jennifer. And I'm personally going to see to your departure."
  • Spoiled Brat: All the girls in Sandra's clique, except for Jane, who proves to be a decent person.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: In the disco scene. You betcha... we're gonna get ya...
  • Tempting Fate: "Let's show her what happens to cat-killers!" Sandra, the one who says this, is the one who actually killed the cat in question, and she quickly learns to regret that choice of words.
  • Token Good Teammate: Jane is this to Sandra's clique, though she barely qualifies as a "teammate" since the others barely tolerate her and only care about her money.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Sandra is determined to put Jennifer through this. She tries to frame her when caught cheating, cracks eggs over her books, throws her clothes in the pool, takes nude pictures of her falling off a ladder, tries to drown her, and murders her pet cat, hangs it in her locker, and then tells everyone Jennifer did it!
  • The Unfettered: Nothing will hold Sandra back if she has a grudge against you. She'll do anything short of murder, and then she'll do that too.
  • With Friends Like These...: It's obvious that Sandra's clique doesn't care about Jane, and only uses her because she pays for everything they want.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Sandra pulls this multiple times. The most disgusting one is when she murders Jennifer's cat, then convinces her friends that it was her cat and Jennifer killed it. She then convinces her friends to help her kidnap and murder Jennifer in revenge.