The Varsity – 2004

Bridget snaps back

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A Canadian indie cult horror film successful enough to spawn a sequel-sounds incongruous, right? Well, here we are three years after Ginger Snaps attracted the praise of critics and a major underground following, and Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed has just hit theatres.

Unleashed doesn’t follow the typical road to sequeldom, however. Instead, the film takes a right turn in favor of psychological horror to reflect the new realities of the last surviving character from the first movie.

That would be Bridget, skillfully rendered by 26-year-old Vancouver actress Emily Perkins (who easily looks young enough to play the teenage character). Infected with the werewolf’s blood that led to her sister Ginger’s demise, Bridget has been picked up on the street, mistaken for a junkie and transferred to a clinic because of the paraphernalia she is found with. The reality is that Bridget is attempting to stave off her own transformation into a werewolf by injecting herself with monkshood (an obscure herb). The clinical setting and psychological tone allow for Perkins to exercise her acting chops and expand her formerly meek characterization of Bridget in the first film in startling ways.

In a recent interview while in Toronto doing promo for the film, Perkins commented on the correspondence between the growing maturity of her character in the sequel, and the real-life experiences of women entering adolescence.

“To me it seems like a natural progression,” Perkins says of Bridget’s journey in the films. “It parallels on a metaphorical level what all girls have to go through. You know, we have to go through sexual development and we have to negotiate the male gaze and becoming an object of desire. And dealing with our own carnal element. So Bridget was quite a bit like what I was or how I was. But obviously I didn’t have this external manifestation [turning into a werewolf] of it.”

The strength of Perkins’ performance in the film relies on the fact that she must imply the physical change that occurs to her throughout the film without special effects, and so the audience witnesses this transformation through her acting choices, rather than in a typical Hollywood fashion.

“One of the challenges for me is I’m really self-conscious, and I’m always conscious of the way that I’m seen,” Perkins notes. “And obviously you try and disassociate yourself from the product and try to focus on the process-having artistic integrity. And with the character of Bridget, you can’t be making pretty choices with your acting, you have to be willing to be ugly, because it’s an ugly situation.”

Perkins’ awareness in this respect extends beyond the movie into her everyday life. It’s no surprise that the actress is a women’s studies and psychology grad- her comments on the role of cinema in society and the way that it often fails to reflect society in general in order to present a glamorized version of the world are miles away from the usual fluff that emanates from over-handled starlets.

“It’s important to hold up the mirror, otherwise film stops performing an important function,” she says. “And that’s to raise consciousness on some level. It’s through entertainment, obviously, but it can be so much more than just reflecting the very top echelons of human beauty, or conventional beauty.”

In this respect, Ginger Snaps II makes very bold choices in embracing what the horror film should be-the ability to be challenging, to hold up the mirror to the darker facets of reality rather than the often misogynistic impulses of the genre. The film’s great strength lies in its ability to make these choices, and in the way it allows Perkins free reign to explore the ugliness of Bridget’s character for all to see.

Perkins thinks that’s partly why the movies have struck a nerve with fans-Bridget just reflects the dark side we all have, particularly during those troubled teen years.

“It’s just nice to know that this character hits a nerve with teenage girls and that they feel they’re being reflected on film in a way that’s not condescending,” Perkins says. “It’s really rewarding to know that people respond to it and they feel they’re being represented in some small way.”

By Colin Tait

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The Varsity

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