The Star – 2004

Keeping the werewolves from the door bites

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“What does Emily Perkins look like?” the Star photographer wanted to know.

Beats me. You certainly couldn’t tell what she looked like from her role in the werewolf horror film Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed where she is basted in blood, hollow-eyed, self-mutilating, grows fur in inappropriate areas and keeps sprouting those annoying canine ears. No way you could pick Perkins out in a lineup.

In person, she looks like a young Jennifer Connelly.

In the film’s establishing scene, Brigitte is cutting herself on the arm and then injecting herself with a serum that turns out to be monkshood, an antidote to becoming a werewolf. By cutting herself, she can measure the effectiveness of the monkshood, gauging how fast she heals and how close she is to the hour of the wolf.

I couldn’t watch the scene. I have issues with blood and needles. Perkins has not. In fact, she’s a Goth girl, a fan of the genre.

Furthermore, she didn’t have to inject herself. It was producer Grant Harvey injecting himself. And the cutting was done on pigskin.

“I’m not really squeamish — I love blood, gore and guts,” she maintains. “I tend to get cast in those roles. I got doused with blood when I was 12 in the Farrah Fawcett TV-movie Small Sacrifices. She shoots her kids and I was one of the kids who survived.”

She didn’t know who Fawcett was. Charlie’s Angels flew under her radar.

“The ’70s, when was that?” asks Perkins, who is 26. She is playing Brigitte at age 17.

“I was in Stephen King’s It when I was 13. I had blood sprayed out of a sink all over me. Running around screaming is what I do. I was a dark, dark teenager; I wasn’t a people pleaser. I internalize and I have a sardonic sense of humour like Brigitte. It is cathartic to amplify that repressive part in me. I didn’t have to go deeply to bring it out.”

The original Ginger Snaps became a cult favourite. “I think the difference with this movie is that it is character driven — the monster is empathetic. You care for the people who get killed. The girls (Ginger and Brigitte) are smart and funny and outcasts.”

Much like Perkins herself.

“It was something I really responded to,” she allows. “I was a depressed teenager and I didn’t respond well to puberty. I don’t like condescending movies. The script made me laugh — I know lots of people like me.”

In this sequel, Brigitte’s sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) has gone to that home for werewolves in the sky but that doesn’t prevent her from reappearing when things get really grisly.

A horrible beast is stalking Brigitte because she and he share the same DNA and he wants to mate with her — shades of Ripley in Alien. When kindly librarian Jeremy (Brendan Fletcher) tries to help Brigitte, he’s toast.

“Brigitte doesn’t kowtow to the males. She doesn’t make pretty choices.

“Even if Jeremy hadn’t been killed,” she posits, “she’s reacting with horror to her sexual development. She doesn’t want to identify with the virgin/whore dichotomy. She’s a heroic character who doesn’t embrace her sexuality and isn’t trying to sex herself up. Brigitte fights it. It represents the double conflict: she resents identifying herself with a patriarchal gauge.

“Teenage girls see the film on that level and the characters have a lot of resonance. It reflects the struggle of teenaged girls: most teenage girls are awkward. It’s nice to see strong female characters that are not all dolled up. There is so much fear in teenage girls, the horror of the teenaged body.

“Sexuality has been considered a monstrous thing by society. Feminine sexual power throughout history has been policed and men have the control.”

How does she know all this stuff?

“I was a women’s studies and psychology major at UBC,” she reveals. “The women’s department at UBC was languishing, relegated to a tiny portable. A woman’s degree wasn’t cool. There is still a wage gap and glass ceiling and success for women is intimidating to men’s power.”

There is already a prequel to Ginger in the can, shot in Edmonton in horrific freezing conditions of 30 degrees below zero, filmed back to back two weeks after Snaps 2. She found out about the sequel from an article her boyfriend’s parents read in the Winnipeg Free Press.

“I’m glad they didn’t give the role to someone else,” she sighs. “I’m glad they didn’t go commercial and cast a babe with big breasts. I’m improbably configured. My features deviate from the mean.”

Perkins hails from Vancouver. She begged her mother to let her act in plays from age 10.

“An agent noticed me and asked me to join his agency and I worked whenever I could,” she explains. “I only had five auditions last year; I am irregular and mostly American TV shows are shot in Vancouver. The actresses they know (and use) are the stereotypical characters for females and I don’t fit into a niche. I don’t make conventional choices. I don’t play a bubblehead convincingly. I won’t do something unless the content is cool.”

Her cool work includes a recurring role in Da Vinci’s Inquest and appearances in X-Files, Mom P.I., In Cold Blood and Danger Bay.

She made her film debut in Ginger Snaps in 1999 and subsequently appeared in Past Perfect and Insomnia.

“I have a political slant,” she continues, “I’m critical, which is not an asset for an actor.”

Perkins had to undergo an astounding 13 makeup changes and an array of prosthetics for Brigitte.

“I loved it,” she insists, “it is so freeing. When you look in the mirror you are so critical. In this, you are supposed to be totally grotesque. The crew would kind of walk away from me. Then I knew: Yes! It’s cool! It was a very physical shoot but I have a surplus of energy as an acnated with turning into other-worldly creatures.”

By Rita Zekas

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The Star

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