Emily the strange
Unleashed star doesn’t mind literally chewing scenery, as long as she’s working.
“Eating ‘deer’: that was pretty gross,” says Emily Perkins when asked about her toughest day shooting Ginger Snaps2: Unleashed. “It was really, really cold and I had the fake intestines in my mouth and stuff, and I was just chewing them, and my hair lit on fire a little bit because the deer was on fire, too.”
The 26-year-old Vancouver actor isn’t complaining, though. She loves playing Brigitte, the heroine of the cult-hit Canadian werewolf trilogy because she identifies so much with the awkward character. (Incidentally, filming of part three is complete and awaits release.)
“I was always a dark teenager,” she explains, “but I tended to always hide that. I was a people pleaser, so for me it was a cathartic experience to bring that [dark] side of me out… It wasn’t hard for me to play this really lonely teenage girl.” The character is a response to the standard horror film heroine, who’s more often like the product of an Aaron Spelling show than of reality. Brigitte’s not overly primped, nor porno curvy; she’s not soap-opera-hysterical, nor is she prone to making really dumb decisions when being chased. In other words, she’s the antithesis of Scream Queen. “I don’t have boobs, so I don’t fit into that category. I’m the monster, I don’t run from the monster,” says Perkins, with a hint of pride
“Everyone’s uncomfortable going through puberty, and obviously that’s what the werewolf is a metaphor for: sexual development. For me [puberty] was really hard because I always felt the pressure of having to define yourself as being an object of desire. You have to perform for the male gaze; you have to define yourself in terms of the virgin/whore dichotomy, for example. You’re either gonna have to be the ‘good girl’ or the ‘bad girl.’ That’s a thread that runs through the Ginger Snaps movies.”
Most critics liked the original Ginger Snaps because it’s so conscious of female stereotypes in the horror genre. For example, Brigitte is purposefully contrasted with her sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), who goes into hormonal overdrive after being bitten and becomes a monstrous version of “the whore” stereotype, complete with suggestive wardrobe and over-sexed attitude.
Perkins appreciates intelligent horror films, citing The Others, but says the same reason she’s drawn to the Ginger Snaps movies is the same reason she doesn’t find the genre frightening. “My level of consciousness is too high. It’s too easy to analyze them because I’m a feminist and I see everything through a feminist lens,” explains Perkins; “I always watch films in terms of ‘How is this monster threatening traditional patriarchal values or mainstream values?’”
Not surprisingly, the types of roles she wants are rare. Before Ginger Snaps, Perkins was best known for playing outcast kid Beverly in the Stephen King T.V. mini-series It and for guest starring in a 1998 episode of the X-Files. She currently has a recurring role on the award-winning CBC crime drama Da Vinci’s Inquest as a prostitute, but it’s a struggle career-wise.
She admits, “I’m really grateful just to have work, frankly… I find it really difficult to even get auditions because I’m a little bit different. It’s hard for me to get parts as the usual girls. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of really unique female characters.” She thinks Canada could make more intelligent, original, and commercially successful films like Ginger Snaps if the industry embraced the kind of movie in which a girl could earn a decent paycheque for gnawing on fake deer guts. Really, there is no good reason a movie can’t be both Canadian and accessible outside art house theatres
“We’ve alienated the public by not making more genre films,” says Perkins. “Canadian youth are right not to want to see Canadian films because they’re not usually made with them in mind,” she explains. “I’m a Canadian actor, and I can’t really pick and choose. It’s so hard for us to just survive. It really is a huge struggle.”
By Dave Alexander