Even in our modern age of 'chick-flicks' and 'rom-coms' that allegedly delves deep into women's sexual trials and truths, there are some issues which never get treated 'openly,' like female orgasms, menstruation, and unplanned pregnancies. The censorship codes of our grandparents post-code film die hard. Raunchiness is strictly for teenage boys, or hot girls patiently dating schmucks (like Cameron Diaz). That's why films like CARRIE and GINGER SNAPS are so shocking, and instantly relevant, like needed feminine mystique injections into a cinema choked with hormonal boy's gym clothes rankness. And when a girl winds up pregnant it usually involving both parties deciding to keep the child despite their differing levels of hotness, ala KNOCKED UP, and or give it up for adoption (JUNO), and/or the father is a religious nutjob trying every means at his disposal to save the 'receptacle' of his holy gift from destroying her chance at salvation even if it means her death (the odious STEEL MAGNOLIAS). If there's an abortion there must be a great deal of shaming, of tears and anguish over this decision--maybe its even a period film so its illegal and extra tawdry, or the abortionist is a patriarchal dickweed-- that will haunt the woman the rest of her life; now she can't have children even if she wants, or she bleeds out in the car on the way home. If she doesn't kill herself or sacrifice her life to save another, then she's murdered or ODs. If she is already fallen in some respect that she'll gladly die so her child may live --as in the horribly second-guessed ending of Blake Edwards' SWITCH or a host of pre-code films like LIFE BEGINS.
|Slate at Cross's.|
Written and directed by newcomer Gillian Robespierre from an original short, there's such a perfect flow between Slate and the material it's hard to believe it's all not happening in the moment with special attention to the way people actually talk --not 'normal' people, the kind of banal life-affirming doltishness Hollywood jadedly associates with the 'true America'--but real young Williamsburg-dweller college-educated witty individuals. Mining everything for great comedy right down to the drunken fumblings with a condom that are so often jettisoned in nights of drunken abandon, it's the kind of keenly-observed, brilliantly played interaction I've seen only in the best 'ensemble' comedy work--Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in BRIDESMAIDS (2007) or Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in BROAD CITY (Comedy Central) for example--women who've done the work to make their characters come alive, rather than by some clueless male or self-hating female screenwriter whose low opinion of young women masks a real cluelessness about how people clever enough to eke out a life on their own but still struggling with self-sabotage issues actually talk and think (as opposed to the grating dimwittedness 'hipster' girls in JUNO and FRANCES HA for example, who seem made by people who've been home schooled and never met a real girl before).
There's a few boys and meals to the side, including a helpful chemist/horticulturist/pot dealer who seems partially inspired Josh Hartnett's character in THE FACULTY (1998), but more than anything, this is a girl's horror movie, bloody like the menses-minded wolf.
I didn't really dig this film the first time around (renting it from Blockbuster, on VHS - talk about patriarchal oppression), but now on blu-ray and in full anamorphic glory the autumnal colors glow and the framing and lighting of director John Fawcett can be better appreciated, the echoes of fellow Canadian horror filmmaker Cronenberg better discerned. Its seductive comic book rhythm rushes past all the usual crap that bogs down most high school horror films, focusing instead on the two sisters and their gradual transformation from all-talk to genuine murder and too-late-to-turn-back-now violence escalations. the coolly ominous music score gradually cohering from the mist.
There's still a few problems like the less-than-stellar werewolf effects (there's no real transformation money shot ala HOWLING or AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON), the kinds of problems which could have been covered by CGI, but digital effects were still, as we learn in the extras, in their expensive infancy, and now that CGI is so pervasive, GINGER's reliance on analog latex is retro-cool and adorable anyway. Credit the film's real staying power to Emily Perkins, who makes scenes with the transformed Ginger come alive in ways the monster on its own could not. Like Slate in OBVIOUS CHILD we can read all sorts of inferences in her eyes--her understanding of the impassive rubber wolf mask's little gestures makes the mask come alive for us as well. She brings home the real sadness of being stalked by your own sister, the only one in the world you trusted, who know wants you to kill your new and only other friend to prove your devotion. With her sullen long face hidden in a deep foxhole of long protective hair, Perkins is so great and her rapport with Isabelle so solid, the minor problems all melt away and only beautifully framed horror film tableaux.
The wealth of extras include a somewhat rambling making-of documentary, deleted scenes, previews, and two separate commentary tracks. In these the director John Fawcett makes sure we know he's the feminist behind this, not all the women who worked on it, like co-writer Karen Walton (though she does get her own commentary track and surely had a hand in the rightness of the dialog, the way Debra Hill did on HALLOWEEN). They're currently working on the hit BBC show ORPHAN BLACK so they must still be tight -- but I thought that kind of credit-grabbing insecurity existed only in Hollywood; he'd be a lot better off letting Walton take the credit; hell, Jack Hill even invented a woman author for his SWINGING CHEERLEADERS script. (Fawcett does have some slyly deprecating things to say about the final monster, and how they had to keep it in shadow a lot to keep up the scariness --a nice way of saying it sucked - though he was the one who insisted it be hairless and albino, terrible choice, John!) There's some insight into the tax-funded Canadian film industry (there was a backlash when the script was sent around to casting agencies because Columbine had just occurred), audition tapes from the early part of the process, and what the actors look like now (or Emily Perkins anyway, who seems like a completely different person, below)