After an interminable wait, it was finally time to see “Ginger Snaps: the Beginning”. Our three guests mentioned in my opening paragraph, sans Michael Marshall, were there to present the film. They said a few words, and then the lights dimmed once more.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I adored this film. It surpasses its two predecessors by leaps and bounds. Deeply rooted in Canadian history, it takes place at an almost abandoned trader’s fort in the Alberta wilderness. The fort is almost exclusively populated by men: their supplies are running low, as is their hope for survival. The fort is under constant attack from a pack of wild beasts. The Fitzgerald sisters take refuge there, safe from attacks and the inevitable doom that the forest and torturous Canadian winter can bring. Or are they? There they are, locked in with men who are desperate and all have something to hide. Some secrets can kill you. They will soon be aware of this.
First of all, I don’t remember seeing a horror film being more beautifully shot. The interiors are all shades of brown and orange, all glowing with candlelight, while the exteriors are stark and white, almost surreal. On top of that, the film uses some very effective time-lapse photography that is used brilliantly and has a poetic sensibility I have not seen since Gus Van Sant’s “My own private Idaho”. Cinematographer Michael Marshall, who did the absolutely incredible opening credits for “Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed”, has done something here that rivals the work of John Toll, Dean Semler, and John Seale. You have to see it for yourself. You will be awestruck.
Next up are the performances. Our two leads do an extraordinary job of creating a whole other backstory for characters we already knew. We believe that they are indeed in the 19th Century from the get-go. We soon forget about Bailey Downs High School and the Happier times Care Center. This film, other than the relationship between the two leads, and the impending werewolf attack and infection has very few things in common with the two first films. When they say “Together, for ever.” In this one, you feel it isn’t just something teenage sisters say to one another. You feel as if it is for real. Their emotions are for real, their peril is for real, and their dilemmas are for real. Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle are for real as well. Their performances are exemplary. Ms. Perkins says more with just a look than many actresses say with their entire body of work. There is real depth and real humanity in her character, while being surrounded by characters that have depth, but no humanity whatsoever. Tom McCamus, who f*cked me up with his performance in “I love a man in uniform”, delivers here a very subtle and layered performance. There is a little bit of humanity left in his character but not enough to make a significant impact. Hugh Dillon, who was way too convincing in “Hard Core Logo”, shows us that he is more than a singer-turned-actor. I completely forgot about the Mohawk, about all of the cigarettes, all of the alcohol. He turns in a fabulous performance as the distinctively corrupt chaplain who does unspeakable acts, all in the name of God. Casting agents, listen up. Cast this man often. The world needs to see more of him.
Finally, Grant Harvey’s direction is a schizophrenic one, and I couldn’t ask for a better job. The direction is at times in your face and overwhelming, then lyrical, almost Kubrick-esque. There is ghastly horror and insane beauty. Chaos and poetry. It would be unsettling if it wasn’t for a very strong script that glues everything together into something I have never seen before.
Every facet of my personality was completely satisfied with this film: my visual side still can’t get over how beautiful the film looks, my screenwriter side got a script that challenged me and made me think, my sappy side got genuine emotion, my macho side got dizzying action, and my gorehound side got buckets of blood. I truly hope that this film will get a theatrical release because it is the equivalent of visual heroine: the bigger the fix, the bigger the buzz.
After a well-deserved standing ovation, Emily Perkins, Paula Devonshire, and cinematographer Michael Marshall answered a few questions from the audience. Most of them are covered in the interview I conducted so I won’t retype them. My fingers hurt and I’m not done yet!