Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed directed by Brett Sullivan, written by Megan Martin, produced by Peter Block, John Fawcett and Noah Segal, with Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Tatiana Maslany, Janet Kidder and Eric Johnson. 94 minutes. A Lions Gate/Seville Pictures release. Opens Friday (January 30). For review, venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 70. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Emily Perkins, who plays one of the most original horror movie heroines ever, also paints and sculpts and writes. And thinks about cyborgs. And reads a lot. Case in point: she just finished reading The Picture Of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.
"Well, I have to do all this publicity stuff, and it's about vanity and monstrosity," she shrugs.
Monstrosity is playing a big part in Perkins's life. She's Brigitte, the bitter, nerdy younger sister of Ginger the teen werewolf in the Ginger Snaps movies. In Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed, Ginger is a ghost and Brigitte's the star, locked up in a rehab centre, slowly turning into a werewolf herself.
After seeing the film, meeting her in a pastel suite at the Sutton Place Hotel is a bit startling. It's hard to accept that this delicate little gothish chick with a handshake like a fistful of feathers inhabits the same body as the hulking, scowly character she plays.
Which is where Dorian Gray comes in.
"When you're making a movie in which you're totally grotesque, you can't help but have internalized the male gaze a bit." (Did I mention she has a degree in psychology and women's studies?) "It's scary putting yourself out there looking like that."
Not that she couldn't relate to the role. She laughs a bit uncomfortably.
"I felt like people were seeing the real me - as if they had this little window into my true self," she says. "I kind of fear that I'm really a monster inside. I think everybody fears that, especially when you're a teenager."
The sequel tends to deploy gore where the first film used whimsy, and Brigitte's battle against the werewolf within entails some fairly queasy-making self-mutilation.
"This film is darker than the first," Perkins confirms, "and I think it's because Brigitte doesn't have fun with her transformation the way Ginger did in the first film. She's resisting what's naturally supposed to happen, which is her sexual development."
Right, the sexual development subtext. Another difference between Ginger Snaps I and II. In the first film, it's subtle and sly. Puberty isn't like becoming a werewolf, it is becoming a werewolf (the hair! the blood! the horror!) - and that's the joke. The sequel, on the other hand, uses metaphor like Jack Black uses his face. It feels, at first, like a clumsy rip-off of the original, until it introduces Ghost (Tatiana Maslany) and goes so far over the metaphorical top that it flips right back over into cleverness again.
Ghost is a little girl who lives in Brigitte's rehab centre. If Brigitte's darker and weirder than Ginger, Ghost takes the progression a step further. She doesn't just steal scenes; she steals the whole movie and makes it into something utterly unexpected.
Perkins says Ghost is the next logical step in the movie's exploration of outsiderdom.
"I like to analyze horror movies. I have a critical mind, but that's not necessarily good for an actor. If my heart's not in a project, if it doesn't have substance or integrity, I flub the audition. I don't know if I'm really an actor at heart."