A Gun For Jennifer

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A Gun For Jennifer (1997) filters the tropes of classic grindhouse staples Ms. 45 (1981) and Switchblade Sisters (1975) through the lens of the Riot Grrrl sensibilities of the nineties to create a uniquely scuzzy and gory rape/revenge thriller. The film was the passion project of director Todd Morris and actress Deborah Twiss and was shot on 16mm in 1994 and 1995 but withheld from release for years due to financial troubles. Since then a cult following has sprung up around the film.

A Gun For Jennifer features plenty of violence and rage. Rapists are castrated and killed in explicit gross-out scenes. The film celebrates female camaraderie whilst reveling in spectacles of bloody carnage. Morris and Twiss do everything in their power to one-up the violence of Abel Ferrara, Jack Hill and Meir Zarchi transforming A Gun For Jennifer into a legitimate sucker punch of a movie. The influence of Doris Wishman’s Bad Girls Go To Hell (1965) is also present in the title character’s flashbacks.

But the intertextuality of A Gun For Jennifer is not its most compelling component. The fact that a film so concerned with sexual violence hardly features any sex or nudity at all is wholly unique within the context of the rape/revenge thriller. In A Gun For Jennifer sex crimes are discussed at length but what is shown is the vigilante retribution. This omission focuses the film on the collective rage of its female protagonists, doing much to valorize their vendetta.

Unfortunately this emphasis on rage and revenge limits the characterization of the women in the film. These women characters exist only to be angry and violent. The relationships between members of the all-girl gang are never developed beyond their shared passion for violence. As a result none of the female characters besides the titular Jennifer (Twiss) ever really exists as a fully fleshed out character with dimension. It’s a shortcoming that keeps A Gun For Jennifer from becoming a full blown masterpiece.