Even in our modern age of 'chick-flicks' and 'rom-coms' --films that allegedly delve deep into women's sexual trials and truths--there are some issues which never get treated 'openly,' i.e. brazenly and even-keeled: the female orgasms, menstruation, and unplanned pregnancies that end not in hasty marriage or adoption but abortion. And of those, almost none that involve abortion without guilt or shaming, or using it as some character development to imply loose morals and lazy self-preservation instincts. The censorship codes of our grandparents die hard. Sexual voracity is strictly for teenage boys, or hot (but accessible) 'girlfriend material' like Emma Stone; trapped in bromantic comedies with dudes well below their stature, these 'cool girls' get together with some fat unemployed slob 'cuz he's witty and Apatow sez so. And if she does find a good looking dude, he's inevitably cookie-cutter WASP bland, or a playa who puts her on his B-tier booty call list.
That's why films like OBVIOUS CHILD (2014) and GINGER SNAPS (2000) are so shocking, and instantly relevant. They provide sorely needed feminine mystique injections into a cinema choked with hormonal boy's gym clothes rankness and squeamish back-of-the-bus tittering.
|Slate at Cross's.|
Credit a beautiful script by director Gillain Robespierre (based on her short film of the same name) that we never doubt Donna's sensitivity or strength, even as the jokes flow consistently. We can respect that Donna's mind is made up and that she's smart and has considered her options and is neither martyr nor lost soul. She even knows how to check her own tendency to leaven her inner tension while dealing with the issue, yet never presumes that tension is somehow 'valid' because of the surrounding controversy.
There's such a perfect rapport 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, but real young Williamsburg-dweller college-educated witty individuals. I've seen this kind great naturalistic flow only with the best 'ensemble' female comedy teams--Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in BRIDESMAIDS (2007), Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in BROAD CITY, and nowhere else. These are women who've done enough improv and rehearsal to make their characters breathe and roll rather than submitting to some half-assed plot twists thrust on them by some clueless male or self-hating female screenwriter whose low opinion of young women is masked by generic feminist lip service (i.e. the grating dimwittedness 'hipsters' in JUNO and FRANCES HA).
|Broad City - the Best|
Younger Brigitte, meanwhile, has to begin the scary task of trying-- not only to help her sister by finding a cure and then cooking it up and injecting it-- but pulling away from their sacred death pact and passing judgment against the 'right' of might.
Killing humans should not be a moral issue for werewolves, anymore than buying a steak for most 'normal' eaters, but Brigitte isn't ready to make that jump, differentiating almost like Scarlett Johansson choosing life in GHOST WORLD. Meanwhile one basks in the lack of tacky on-the-nose
moon-titled pop songs, and though 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), this is a girl's horror movie, bloody like the menses-minded wolf.
There's still a few problems, like the less-than-stellar werewolf effects: there's no real transformation money shot the way there was in THE HOWLING or AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and the wolf puppet itself is pretty weak. The idea to make it hairless was a real mistake. These are the kinds of problems which could have been covered by CGI, but digital effects were too expensive at the time. As we learn in the extras. That it all still works is testament to the power of Emily Perkins, whose 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 Perkins' eyes--her understanding of the impassive rubber wolf mask's little gestures makes it come alive for us as well. She brings home the real sadness of being stalked by your own sister, the burden of knowing the only soul in the world you trusted, your one true friend, now wants you to kill your to prove your sororal devotion. With her sullen long face hidden in a deep foxhole of long protective hair, Perkins still conveys a range and her rapport with Isabelle so solid that the minor mechanical problems all melt away and only beautifully framed horror film tableaux remain. The only other actress able to convey the crushing despair of seeing the most important person in your life become a mechanical latex monster? Geena Davis in THE FLY (1986). Another Canadian horror film! Canadian + loss of the kernel by which it was you and she against the world? Coincidence or 49th parallel slid its compass?
|Jennifer's Body (note Hawksian Scarface hand stamp)|
But the real juicy extra is a panel of female horror writers and filmmakers discussing horror films that deal with women's sexuality and how drastically apart films like GINGER SNAPS are from the bulk of slasher films and how that imbalance is an expression of man's horror of gynecology; the scariness and pain for the girl of her first period being something a man can't quite face, and the way females can only achieve orgasm in movies if they also kill their lover immediately (or else are killed) afterwards. They give some love to the underrated JENNIFER'S BODY (see my praiseful post Dead Jennifers), CARRIE (of course), and VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS. And they seem to agree with me that TEETH is a nice idea that totally fails as a film, its makers second-guessing and sewing members back on right up to the time I turned it off (see here).
Or at the very least, ladies, keep up the good fight, and smile so we can see your pretty incisors...
1. the first being of course the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler-Maya Rudolph-Rached Dretch SNL era.