Womanhood vs. Werewolf in Ginger Snaps
The scariest part of Ginger Snaps: Unleashed has nothing to do with a slavering werewolf terrorizing a pair of girls holed up in a cabin in the deep, dark woods.
According to Brett Sullivan, who directed the shot-in-Edmonton sequel to the 2000 cult hit Ginger Snaps, the scene in the new film that had him sweating (silver) bullets was one that shows a group of young women, shall we say, pleasuring themselves en masse.
“I was terrified,” said Sullivan. “It may not be the best-shot scene, but it was one of the scenes I was scaredest of doing.”
Opening Friday in major centres across Canada, Ginger Snaps: Unleashed picks up after the events in the original film, which ended when Brigitte (Vancouver actress Emily Perkins) killed her werewolf sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) in self-defence. Unleashed sees Brigitte locked up in a teenage girls’ drug rehab centre after accidentally overdosing on the serum that keeps her own transformation into a lupine-killing machine in check.
Fighting the beast within, Brigitte takes part in a relaxation exercise class at the centre, which goes in a rather unexpected direction when the counsellor instructs her charges to let their fingers do the walking.
“I basically had to tell this roomful of girls how to masturbate,” said an embarrassed Sullivan, who makes his feature film directorial debut with Ginger Snaps: Unleashed.
“I told them, ‘I don’t want to know how you guys actually do it, but just make sure your hand is in the right place.’ “
The sequence, which is actually a hallucination Brigitte has as she battles to resist her own (literal) hairy-palmed transformation, was deemed necessary by screenwriter Megan Martin to tie together the film’s underlying themes of sexuality and horror, Sullivan said.
It’s this unusual take on budding womanhood versus werewolf terror that helped make the original Ginger Snaps a modest critical hit. The sequel was shot last year at locations in and around Edmonton, including a remote cabin near Hastings Lake, the alley behind the Commercial Hotel on Whyte Avenue and, um, a hospital. (The filmmakers aren’t allowed to say, but according to eyewitness accounts the bulk of Ginger Snaps: Unleashed was shot in portions of Alberta Hospital Edmonton, which is understandably shy about the publicity.)
The hospital is where Brigitte meets a 14-year-old named Ghost, played by 18-year-old Saskatchewan native Tatiana Maslany in her feature film debut. While Ghost isn’t a resident at the rehab facility, she’s got her own special quirks.
“She’s got so many childish qualities. She hasn’t matured yet,” Maslany said of her on-screen alter-ego. “Her love of comic books and stuff … she’s not a normal teenage girl.”
Maslany dons a pair of prosthetic braces (“It was really difficult to get used to them at first; I was drooling everywhere.”) and affects a surprisingly dead-on portrayal of an awkward and somewhat hyperactive teen for her role.
The acting came much easier when she was facing off against the wolf- like Beast, which was brought to life through traditional effects like animatronics and a scary-looking werewolf costume, rather than via digital magic.
“We were filming really late hours, like 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Your perception of reality is a little bit warped,” Maslany said. “I’m very easily scared, so it was fun to see how (the Beast) was made and to work with Jake, who was in the costume. Running away from the monster was pretty scary.”
Perhaps not as scary as spending seven hours in a makeup chair, as Emily Perkins learned when shooting later scenes that show her in the advanced (and hideous) stages of werewolf transformation.
Perkins, 27, hasn’t exactly been allowed to look her best in the Ginger Snaps flicks. In the original, she was the meek, mousy and sullen sister to Katharine Isabelle’s wild-child Ginger. In Unleashed, save for a few moments at the start of the film when she looks relatively normal, Brigitte is strung out on injections of monkshood, the plant-based concoction she uses to keep her werewolf transformation in check, and scarred with the self-inflicted wounds she uses to track her lycanthropic healing ability.
The irony is that when she’s allowed to look pretty, Perkins could pass for a young Jennifer Connelly. “I would love to play a non-junkie character,” she said from her home in Vancouver, where she’s played an addict in a recurring role on the Vancouver-based drama Da Vinci’s Inquest.
Or if not a non-junkie, at least a character that didn’t require her to show up at the makeup trailer at 3 a.m. to endure glued-on prosthetics, hair, fake wounds and sometimes two pairs of contact lenses at once.
“It was a pretty involved process, but it was so much fun,” said Perkins. “It’s such a quintessential part of acting, becoming another character.”
The downside was that it took so long to get the makeup on and off. Not to mention it being a little tricky to navigate with two pairs of contact lenses and a prosthetic gnarled wolf’s paw where your right hand should be.
“I could hardly see,” she said. “And then my hand was in this glove, and I could hardly do anything. I had to have the man who was doing my prosthetics cut my meat for me.”
The original Ginger Snaps – and to a lesser extent, the sequel -represent a departure of sorts for monster flicks, given their generous helpings of dark comedy and the not-so-subtle parallel drawn between girls reaching puberty and a “curse” of a different sort.
“I think Brigitte represents an aspect of my psyche that was really dominant for me when I was an adolescent,” said Perkins. “It’s really cathartic for me to play a character like that.”
Having the Beast symbolize the end of girlish innocence is also a strong theme in the films, Perkins said. “The werewolf is something that interrupts their girlhood, and it can’t be escaped,” she said, with an added caveat: “I was a women’s studies major, so for me that’s obviously how I’m going to look at it.”
Ginger Snaps: Unleashed also stars Edmonton native Eric Johnson (Smallville), Janet Kidder (Tom Stone) and the original film’s Katharine Isabelle, though Isabelle has only a handful of scenes in which she plays a figment of Brigitte’s imagination. As difficult as the makeup process was for Perkins, not having her screen sister around was even harder.
“I missed having Katie there a lot,” she said. “But I just tried to work that into the performance.” PREQUEL SHOT IMMEDIATELY AFTER UNLEASHED WRAPPED UP
We haven’t see the last of sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald. Or their large, hairy, ill-tempered and extremely hungry friend.
Ginger Snaps Back, a prequel to Ginger Snaps, was shot immediately after filming of Ginger Snaps: Unleashed wrapped up in Edmonton last spring.
But rather than returning to the Fitzgerald household in the fictional suburb of Bailey Downs, Ginger Snaps Back lives up to its title, taking the girls much, much further back. To 1790, to be precise.
Which makes it a little difficult to explain the presence of Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), but hey … you can’t overthink a movie about werewolves.
Maybe they’re the girls’ ancestors. Maybe it’s an alternate universe. Maybe it’s just fantasy.
“It looks more like a fairy tale,” said Perkins, adding Ginger Snaps Back has a lot of action but ultimately a more upbeat ending than the other two movies.
Directed by Grant Harvey, Ginger Snaps Back sees the Fitzgeralds lost in the Canadian wilderness, eventually taking refuge in a remote trading outpost.
As (bad) luck would have it, the fort is under siege by some fearsome, malevolent beasties. Bet you can guess what they look like. Arooooo!
Shot largely on location at Fort Edmonton Park, Ginger Snaps Back also stars Nathaniel Arcand, JR Bourne, Adrien Dorval and Hugh Dillon, former frontman of the now-disbanded Headstones.
No release date has been set, but a Canadian theatrical release is pretty much a given.
“It’s a lot different, shooting a period piece,” said Perkins. “We were wearing corsets a lot of the time.”
Not that it was necessarily a bad thing to get all gussied up, 18th century style.
“It was nice,” said Perkins, “because Brigitte finally gets to look kind of nice.”
By Steve Tilley