Ginger Snaps

cursed out

Ginger Snaps
Director: John Fawcett
Released: 2000
Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Mimi Rogers, and Kris Lemche
Running time: 108 min
Genre: horror

A thick, syrupy, voluminous discharge is not uncommon: Well, obviously, there’s a beast in Bailey Downs. It’s climbing in your backyards and snatchin’ your doggies up … and tearing them to fucking pieces, as Ginger would say. Ginger, if you were wondering, is Ginger Fitzgerald, an anti-social almost-sixteen year-old girl from Bailey Downs, a late bloomer, and the idol of her just-turned-fifteen year old sister Bridgette. Together, they do lots of outcasty things, like smoking, cursing at the dinner table, disgusting and disturbing their teacher with a slide show of pictures of gore and death that they posed for as a class project, and sharing snarky remarks about their “standard cum-buckety date bait” classmates while no one is listening.

When one of cum-buckety Trina Sinclair’s friends overhears Bridgette’s insults and rats her out to Trina, the youngest of the Fitz sisters graduates from simple weirdo to target. Trina bumrushes her on the field hockey, uh, field, and knocks her right on top of the latest doggy to fall victim to (read: get torn to fucking pieces by) the Beast of Bailey Downs. Ginger jumps forward to defend her little sis, but her bravery starts to falter when Trina doesn’t back down. Desperate to save face with the sister that looks up to her, Ging starts talking about revenge and promising Bridgette that they’ll get Trina back. They settle on a plan to kidnap Trina’s dog and use their gore know-how to make him look like the Beast got him.

That night, on the way to Trina’s house, psyched up to do their crime, they run across yet another dead dog. (Any person in that town still letting their dogs out, at this point, deserves to be euthanized.) This one is still warm. FREE PROP! They start to pick it up, the perfect addition to their little revenge plot, but a leg comes off and the thing falls and splats all over Ginger’s leg. Except… Oh no! That’s not doggy blood, Ging is a woman now!

Disgusted and, in Ginger’s case obviously freaked, they turn to go home, but that kill was warm. Hot, actually. Sticking around after they found it was so dumb, I mean, really dumb, for real, because The Beast is not far away, and the scent of Ginger’s fresh flow makes her a target for the creature. Ginger is snatched up and dragged her off, mauled and savaged offscreen as Bridgette looks frantically for her. And when The Beast shows its face, Bridgette shows a little more spine than Ging, and doesn’t back down. She batters it with her camera, grabs Ginger, and the girls haul ass. The Beast keeps after them, but is struck by a passing van, splattering the thing all over the everywhere. Back home, Ging begs Bridgette not to tell anyone and, in fact, her wounds are healing. She seems as if she’ll be ok, but as the days progress and Ginger’s behavior starts to change, as she gets more aggressive and shows an interest in boys, as the sisters grow further apart (and their mother revels in their burgeoning womanhood), Bridgette, worried and hurt, begins to think there may be more than one “curse” at work. Run and tell  THAT!

No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease, or the virgin next door: Largely overlooked at its debut, Ginger Snaps made up for that false start by gathering a strong cult following (and also a sequel and a prequel) over the last decade, being widely praised for being both smart and nasty, as well as genuinely good–albeit imperfect–horror.

this is normal, north america

your first time can be a little rough

you may find hair in new places

Fisty: I came super late to the Ginger Snaps bandwagon, only seeing it for the first time last year. Not for any particular reason; I saw it pop up in peoples’ Horror folders when I was er, “acquiring” my collection of movie files, but never bothered with it. Shoots, even Eli had seen it before me. Is this the sort of thing that makes me lose my horror cred? Should I not be admitting this? At PB&G, we have a vague policy of candor when it suits us, and I will not deviate from that equivocal convention we’ve worked somewhat hard to establish!

Bill: It’s about goddamn time! Why do you hate Canada so much?

Fisty: I just do, okay? Why do you love it? And why do you love Ginger Snaps?

Bill: Why do I love Canada? Degrassi. Why do I love Ginger Snaps? Hmmm. Why do I love Ginger Snaps? Do I even LOVE Ginger Snaps? I mean, it does have its flaws. The bellybutton piercing scene is a little over the top. It’s just a bellybutton, calm down. But it was made in 2000 when that wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so I can forgive them that. Ginger’s slow motion walk down the school hallway with all the guys turning to watch her is pretty cheesy. I was never a fan of that scene, but, in its defense, I would turn and watch Ginger stroll by in slow-mo if I had the chance, so I can forgive that. There’s a few lines that don’t come off too well in the film, sound false, silly, but I’ll just assume they didn’t have the budget to keep shooting until they got it just right. That lack of budget is probably also why the final werewolf looks kind of unfinished. It’s not too bad, but it is kind of … bald. Jesse Moss, who plays Jason in the movie, is pretty bad, too. More so in some scenes, like the syringe scene, than others. Of course, he only stands out as being so bad, because Mimi Rogers and Emily Perkins are so good. So, it’s a flawed film, but I forgive most of its shortcomings and, yes, I do in fact love it. Enough so that I just had to order the Canadian DVD instead of the American version, just to get more extras. Why? Now, Fisty, I will tell you what love is made of.

plus slugs and snails

so, so dark

homeopathic skillz

Ginger, sexy teen Ginger, is laying in her bed on her tummy. She’s sleeping in her sexy Canadian panties. Bridgette slowly creeps up on her, softly takes hold of the elastic of her hot teen sister’s panties and slowly pulls them down, revealing A WAGGING FUCKING PUPPYDOG TAIL! Hot, teenage, Canadian, pantybutt with a tail! Man, I have had a thing for werewolf girls since Marsha Quist’s naked firelight sex/transformation scene from The Howling kickstarted my erotic imagination when I was but a young boy. With her claws, the supernumerary nipples on display later in the film and that goddamn tail, Ginger is like the Marsha Quist of Degrassi HighThat is why I fucking love Ginger Snaps.

Fisty: And I guess that explains why you love me, too, supernumerary nipple and all.

Maybe I’m a jerk, but I pretty much rolled my eyes at both Ginger and Brigitte right at the start–and I would’ve thought they were ‘tards back in high school, too. Not because they looked different or were morbid (I was plenty of that myself), but because I would have thought them pretentious and laughable in their rampant desire to be SO DARK. Shit, the girl in the Diary Of a High School Death Rocker was less affected. Maybe.

BUT–nothing wrong with that!. The fact that I initially scoffed at them (“Poseurs!”)–and I never really did get to like Ginger, but in fairness, it’s Brigitte’s story–makes it that much more natural.

Emily Perkins and Mimi Rogers OWN this movie; without them, it would be a pallid, flaccid thing. Okay, that’s a little harsh, but they are just SO GOOD. Rogers especially; if Ginger Snaps were made today, she’d be a Mormon mommy-blogger, CriCut, DSLR, trips to JoAnn’s and all. Both shes are amazing, Pamela Fitzgerald the character, a fiercely protective cookiecutter suburbanite, and Mimi Rogers the actress, who so finely brings Pamela to life.

It does have its flaws, though. Moss isn’t terribly convincing, and all the chiaroscuro promise of the first half peters out in the second as Fawcett just starts hitting genre numbers, finally devolving to an overlong and silly chase finale. Even so, it is head and shoulders (and nipples) above the majority of horror teen fare. (Why are teen-oriented horror movies so often inferior?) Despite that, the finely articulated main characters, deep perceptiveness of both female adolescence and sibling relations, and of course the rarely forced trenchant wit put Ginger Snapsat the top of the teen horror game. (I just said “teen horror” three times; if I say it twice more, will SOMEONE jump out of the mirror and kill me?)

it’s a period!

the new normal

and eat it, too!

Bill: As long as it isn’t Stephenie Meyer…

I can’t fault the girls too much for being soooo “nonconformist”, since I was nearly as bad as they were at one point, though I was a little younger than them at the time.  I had my phase where I only wore black and constantly had my hair in my eyes, drew demons on all my notebooks, hissed if I touched a bible, and one or twice yammered on about death and all the horrible ways of dying, like Trash from Return of the Living Dead.

Fisty: I can’t hear you over the sound of my own laughter.

Bill: Yeah, yeah… Thankfully, that was just a phase. Mostly. I say that while wearing a black t-shirt with zombies on it and looking at the skull candle, wind-up chattery fangs, and skull & bats snowglobe that decorate my computer desk.

And, yes, this movie is all about Perkins and Rogers, as you say. Pamela makes me laugh in just about every scene the character appears in and she is so easy to cheer for later in the movie. She may seem kind of lame and embarrassing to those girls, but, man, she is one hell of a devoted mom. Totally a woman you’d want on your side. As a dude, however, I also have to give some respect to John Bourgeois as Henry Fitzgerald. He’s a bit of a non-entity in the movie, as the dad, but the few times you do see him, he’s perfect as the poor, lone male in the house, struggling to keep his appetite while everyone around him gets washed away in a flood of pussy-sludge talk. “Pam, we’re eating.” Kris Lemche’s character, Sam, is a nice surprise, too. Yes, he grows and sells a bit of pot, but the movie never tries to moralize about that, even showing his botanical know-how as an asset while trying to find a cure. There is some talk (by Trina) hinting at a darker side to his character, calling him a “cherry hound”, but that never seems to come out in his dealings with Bridgette. They make sure to show some porn at his place, as well, but never make him out to be a dirty, lecherous perv. He’s a smart, seemingly decent guy that just happens to make a little cash on the side selling weed to schoolkids and likes titties, but isn’t some misogynist, deviant, Date-Rapist Rick. Kind of nice to have a love-interest (or crush interest or whatever you’d call him in this movie) that isn’t bland and one-note or an obvious asshole, but rather a real character.

And yes, Fisty, you and your extra nip will always be my real world Marsha Quist.

we’re gonna need a bigger stainstick

just a dad dude

not down your throat

Fisty: I especially appreciated how Sam wasn’t shoved down our throats as a love interest. It’s almost obligatory that there be some kind of romantic subplot whenever there are both men and women in a horror movie, and though there’s certainly tension, Bridgette and Sam are primarily concerned with rectifying the terrible situation she is in. And fuck that romance bullshit anyways. Granted, my mind was often on boys when I was fifteen, but if my sister were a werewolf, it would have been on that a lot more.

Bill: Yeah, it seemed like, rather than the straight love interest, he was used more to add an extra, adversarial facet to the girls’  relationship. Sure, Ginger was protective of Bridgette and that was a part of how she reacted to Sam, but she also seemed jealous. She was The Cool Sister, the older of the two and The Pretty One, so Sam’s continued focus on her little sister, instead of her, seemed to get under her skin, especially since Bridgette had been passing herself off as the one with “the curse”. It also seemed to bother her that Bridgette, who she says, “Always wanted to be me,” had a potential new hero in her life. It might have also been a way to dig into the weird dynamics that sometimes pop up between sisters when boys and sex become a part of their lives, where they find themselves competing for male attention.

Fisty: Sisterhood is weird, and the often unspoken rivalries and/or resentments can be very fierce. My younger sister and I (three year difference) are best friends, and we both idolized our older sisters (a decade plus older); the two of them (another three year difference) came close to literally murdering one another at times. Like, locked in the bathroom with the baby (me) while the other rages outside the door with a machete. Being a teenage girl kind of sucks for everyone involved.

Bill: Dude, did you grow up in The Overlook? Shine on, Fisty.


and spice

and nothing very nice

Another reason that I love Ginger Snaps, besides Ginger’s sexy motherfuckin’ tail, is the bitchin’ practical gore. Luckily, the movie came out just prior to the time that CGI really started snaking its way more prominently into the horror genre. So, its animatronics and camera tricks instead of digital transformations here. You’ll find no CGI splatters or sprays in this one. Corn syrup all the way! And for a teeny horror flick, there sure is a lot of it. In one scene that was, according to Fawcett, inspired by the game Silent Hill they actually smear blood all the way through a hallway and across the walls. There’re bloody panties, bloody drips, bloody toilets, bloody urinals, bloody vans, some very bloody deaths, bloody milk, tons of bloody dog corpses (not shown in this review, because awwww, poor doggies) … everything is bloody in this movie. Even the cake (very purposefully, says Fawcett) looks bloody! Given the parallels the movie makes between lycanthropy and menstruation, it would’ve been a total cop-out to see anything less, so I’m glad they didn’t wuss out. While, as I mentioned before, the final werewolf may’ve needed a little more work, all the rest is solid, whether the dismemberments are real or part of the girls’ school project.

And while I’m talking about the effects in the movie, let me make mention of the initial attack on Ginger. It goes by very fast in the movie. It’s easy to miss a lot of the detail in it. It’s worth rewinding and checking out again. When you examine it in detail, you can see that there’s a very sexual overtone to the violence. The werewolf nibbles at her neck, tears at her breast, strokes the inside of Ginger’s thighs, leaving claw marks. I almost thought the thing was going to reach up her skirt. At one point, it practically mounts her from behind, back arched. The beast resembled a dog trying to hump a leg. This is worth noting, because they continue to use the sex-as-violence-as-sex throughout the movie. It leads to one really clever scene, one of my favs in the movie, where you’re not quite sure if Ging has been out sexing or savaging. It’s not a new idea, but Ginger Snaps uses the allegory well, without pounding it into your skull in a ham-fisted Romero-like fashion.

Fisty, you want to wrap up?

like out the toilet?

no use crying

kills werewolves dead

Fisty: In a sec. We didn’t talk a whole lot about the body horror, puberty, and menstruation aspect, but I think a lot of that is pretty obvious and needs neither explication nor defense. For young women especially, menstruation represents the culmination of pubescence, and brings with it a whole lot of baggage in our culture. For a lot of girls it can still be pretty shocking no matter how intellectually prepared we feel we are for it via sex ed, “the talk,” or pop culture. (Shit, I was in denial about mine for two days the first time.) It’s good to see it represented in what really amounts to not a very melodramatic fashion, if you can see past the whole werewolf and murder thing. Poor Ginger–and Bridgette by proximity–speed through this trauma/transition without being able to process it, and their awkwardness as they try to deal is one of the strongest parts of the film.

The practical effects are pretty cool, shades of An American Werewolf in London, but those and the violent episodes lack any real artistic flair that would elevate them from rote setpieces to glamorous, baroque mayhem. That’s about all.

Regardless of its imperfections, Ginger Snaps is a welcome addition to the new canon of horror: a bright, intense, and most of all PERCEPTIVE look at the inner world of the adolescent girl, something found all too rarely in horror, where teenage girls are often relegated to roles of T&A or standard Final Girl with little deviation. It’s also pretty fuckin’ funny. With all the bloody ultraviolence naturally found therein, and a little lycanthropy thrown in for good measure, Fawcett, Perkins, Isabelle, and Rogers take us all along for the ride and oh, what fun it is.

Bill: And check out that tail!


worst poster yet

aka Nouvelle espèce
Vincenzo Natali
Released: 2009
Starring: Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody, Delphine Chanéac
Running time: 104 minutes
Genre: horror, science-fiction, thriller

Neonatal-i stylee: Splice delivers, literally, as it opens and we experience birth from the perspective of a newborn critter being brought into life by the rockstar scientist couple of Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley).  The critter turns out to be one of two maple leaf-tongued (they’re Canadian!) chimeric horrors named Fred and Ginger, seemingly spliced together from the DNA of a loogie and that creepy limbless guy from Tod Browning’s Freaks. When introduced, the pair (male and female they created them) bond touchingly, and it seems that Clive and Elsa’s latest project is destined for success.

High on pure scientific discovery with visions of human hybrids and miracle cures dancing in their heads, Clive and Elsa walk into a meeting with the financial and operational heads of Nucleic Exchange Research and Development (yes, N.E.R.D.,) who proceed to kill their buzz with a harsh dose of capitalist reality.  Playing God is très expensive, they’re in the private sector, and so they need to start bringing in the big bucks. So, from now on, discovery is put on the back burner until they can start synthesizing  the new proteins and compounds that Fred and Ginger make possible to make everyone rich and fund further research.  Besides, the bosses point out, at this early stage the outrage at using human DNA would be pretty extreme.

Too young, idealistic, and in love (and being such big know-it-alls) to postpone for anything silly like moral or financial reasons the couple plunge into human splicing in secret, just to see if they can do it. (Just the tip?) Of course, things go further than planned and before they’re anywhere near ready, they find themselves ankle deep in amniotic fluid and over their heads in parental drama.  Their creation, Dren, grows rapidly, forcing everything else in their lives into the background.  Previously an almost perfect couple, Clive and Elsa now find themselves at odds over how to deal with Dren, who is becoming more difficult, unpredictable, and deadly with each passing day.

fred, meet clive & elsa

Stylish and smart, Splice features Cronenbergian-levels of squick, as well as fascinating meditations on the meanings of marriage, pregnancy, abortion, childbirth, and parenting. Natali establishes tension early on in all aspects of the film, but it sadly peters out by the silly finale. Perhaps too varied for hardcore horror and sci-fi fans, and too intense for mainstream audiences, Splice was a box office stillbirth, but celebrated by most critics.

Fisty: A bit disingenuous, aren’t we, with that synopsis? Let’s be blunt: Elsa is the dynamo in this relationship–at least until Dren comes along–and the whole project rests largely on her shoulders. She’s the one who pressures Clive into experimenting with human DNA, and she’s the one who refuses at every opportunity to give the project up. Splice begins with the premise that while Clive wants to progress in their relationship and plans on children one day, Elsa doesn’t want kids–not outside of a laboratory. She frightened, in part because of her rocky past with a possibly crazy, abusive mother, and in part because, well, having kids is a pretty big and intimidating undertaking. At least, it ought to be. There’s a lot of awesome mystery involved in the organic process of pregnancy and childbirth, not to mention parenting forever after. And Splice nicely explores all of the terrors a modern, liberated woman might have about it.


Bill: I’d really like to stand up for Clive, but I can’t.  He’s a bit of a pushover. Only once in the movie does he really show any kind of initiative to act decisively on his own.  He basically lets Elsa run him, only ever offering fairly weak resistance to whatever she wants, which his younger brother calls him out on at one point.  He can’t get the work done at the lab, leaving Elsa to go save their jobs (though, she did have fresher tissue samples.)  He can’t even be the sexual aggressor.  He just strokes Elsa’s leg until she takes over.  And he isn’t just that way with Elsa either.  He can’t handle Dren.  He can’t handle her when she’s a baby.  He ends up holding his ears and letting Elsa take care of her.  He can’t handle her when she’s a child, instead forcing Elsa to be the disciplinarian.  He has a brief moment during what I would guess to be an early pubescent stage of Dren’s development, while teaching her to dance, that he uses this obviously adoring and uncertain tween-thing to be “The Man,” something he can’t do with Elsa, trying to explain to Dren that the man should always lead.  As soon as she gains some confidence and enters adolescence, however, he becomes a doormat for her, too.

It isn’t just Clive.  Males, in general, in Splice are all either completely incompetent, weak-willed or both, as well as constantly out-classed by and subservient to their female superiors.  The only exceptions are the few times when being male instantly makes them violent, territorial murderers and rapists.

geek chic

Fisty: Odd, I seem to recall someone babbling that all males in Splice were depicted just as violent, murdering rapists. But here you’re saying they’re violent wimps? Interesting. I think you’re projecting again, Bill. This is not King of Queens or According to Jim.  (Bill: So I get a little annoyed with the PR war on masculinity.  Sue me. Fisty: NO SUCH THING.)  It’s a metaphor for starting a family. But if it makes you feel better, you could just as easily say that all the women in Splice (what few there were, even considering the small cast) were castrating bitches. And violent, murderous ones, too, who placed reproduction above the needs or concerns of their partners–or just about anyone, really. Unbunch your nuts already. And neither would I call Gavin or Barlow incompetent, weak-willed, or subservient. You’re grossly generalizing.

Bill: Oh, come on.  They are such buffoons.  Gavin is completely reliant on his brother for his job and can’t even tell the difference between a boy and a girl and Barlow is scared shitless of Chorot and is completely dismissed by Elsa.  “When the REAL scientists show up, ” she says to him.  But, you’re right that the women don’t fare any better, often shown behaving like selfish tyrants.  Perhaps, if the characters are a family, then the movie is a home, and it’s still the case in our society, at least at the moment, that the woman is the central figure in the home and the man has a lesser role (not to trivialize dudes.)  And, yeah, the chicks can be pretty violent in this, too.

oh, SHI–!

Fisty: It wouldn’t have bothered you AT ALL if Gavin’s role were female instead–and lest we forget, EVERYONE in the lab relies on Clive and Elsa keeping their shit together and the project going, or they are out of a job … and plush scienterrific jobs are probably not so easy to find–or if Clive had said that to Barlow. Like I said, you are totally projecting. Elsa IS a real scientist, so why shouldn’t she scorn a bureaucrat mucking about in her lab? I LIKE that Elsa is aggressive and sometimes unpleasant. It’s a relief that she isn’t relegated to just demonstrating maternal instincts, or being the great moralizer; too many women in horror and sci-fi are left to fulfill that Victorian notion that women are inherently moral–or at least, more moral than the men around. Instead, from the very start, Elsa chivvies Clive along persuading him into ever further transgressions, until she hasn’t a leg to stand on when she makes a volta face and accuses him of being the great transgressor. Just by continuing their experiments and creating Dren, Elsa takes them into a place without rules, where they’re left to create their own. Unfortunately, neither of them is really capable of doing so. Like a lot of adults lingering in a twilight world of post-adolescence, Elsa and Clive are … clueless.

Bill: They are and because they are, they both make some severe mistakes in how they deal with Dren.  They both crack up at various points.  They screw up.  Still, they aren’t bad people.  They aren’t unlikable.  They both care and they both show compassion.  These aren’t one-note characters.  Even when they’re at their most despicable, they aren’t evil, just angry, stressed or mixed up.

a mommy & me moment

Fisty: Elsa herself isn’t self-aware enough to realize what she is doing when she creates Dren. Though she categorically refuses to have children with Clive, she leaps into creating a human-animal hybrid using her own DNA, creating a surrogate child in the controlled environment of her lab. For someone who is supposed to be so smart, she sure is stupid about her motives for the experiment. Elsa, because of her past with a crazy mother, seeks control–and she cannot control pregnancy or childbirth and rearing unless it’s in the guise of an experiment, with a specimen. After all, then she can have a family and a career, but in one package instead of juggling the two! (One could even choose to interpret this as a danger of the scientific world in which Elsa and Clive live, that she/they fear anything outside of certain rigid parameters, but that just seems silly.)

It’s not so unusual to fear pregnancy and childbirth, and to have to cope with the idea of certain things being out of your control–they will happen regardless. MY GOD, Dren’s birth scene is an absolute nightmare of hospital birth trauma. Now, Eli and I are planning on reproducing sometime soon, and I am frankly terrified, so I get the idea. It is normal and rational to be anxious and afraid of reproduction, but Elsa’s reaction is pathological. Not to mention that she drags Clive into it in a neat reversal of the usual “tricked into pregnancy” coup de grace administered when one partner (*cough*THE MAN*cough*) is reluctant to breed. That was pretty funny.

shoulda gone for hypnobabies at the birthing center

Bill: I want to talk about Dren.  First, a few props to Delphine Chanéac for making her more than just a standard movie monster, giving us a creature with personality and pathos.  That’s essential to a good Frankenstein story.  Also…  OMG, so cute!  I want one!  She’s like a little fleshy mouser from TMNT.  NO!  She’s Mew.  She’s an adorable little live action Mew.  Then, when she grows up…  total genetic lolita hotness.  She’s like Mewtwo if Mewtwo were a porn starlet.  Kind of alien looking, sure, and slightly androgynous, yes, but she has a tail.  Man, I dig chicks with tails.  She’s the sexiest only vaguely human character in a movie since Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.   When she grabs that rail with her foot and does that thing with her hips…  OMG!  I want one!  Then, when those wing things pop out, kind of like Shuna Sassi’s quills in Nightbreed…  Fuck yeah!


She kind of grossed me out, actually, and I like aye-ayes and naked mole rats. She’s got an uncanny valley kind of thing going on, but um, alive. At least in the face. For me, she was cutest when she was newborn–and least human (and more like a bunny head).

the train goes in the tunnel

Speaking of gross, Natali went all out with the squick. Suitably for a movie taking place in a lab with human hybrids and featuring a crazy reproductive psychosexual subtext, there’s a lot of … fluids. And goo. Fred and Ginger are basically goo balls that sprout tentacles. Dren’s “birth” scene, the delivery from the host uterus tank thing, is especially nasty. There’s broken glass and amniotic fluid EVERYWHERE, and meconium and placenta, and just nasty nasty nasty. With all the screaming and trauma, it’s a perfect commentary on the nightmare of a hospital birth gone awry.

Bill: Don’t forget the splatterthon in front of a live studio audience.  Those poor people should’ve had a Gallagher tarp.  Maybe that scene was meant to be like going to your kid’s school play and watching him walk out with his shoe untied, trip, then vomit on stage.  I have to wonder if Fred and Ging were acting out because Mommy and Daddy were giving all of their attention to the baby.  One good thing about Splice, while the main themes and metaphors are obvious, maybe even obnoxiously so, there’s a lot of room to play with various interpretations of everything else in the movie.  It’s a movie that deals with themes that beg to be OVER-analyzed.  It’s fun think about and discuss.

That starts to break down, though, towards the end, when things get a little too Freudian.  If you ain’t down with Freud, the last act won’t really work for you.  It didn’t for me.

cam2cam ne1?

Fisty: Neither I. And I think that may be what upset so many of the fan people, they were unwilling to deal with the masses of Freudian associations thrown at them by Natali: transference, incest, Oedipus, Elektra, the genital stage, phallocentrism, etc. Especially at the end, when the nice, tense thriller devolves into a silly, clichéd action chase, culminating in an ultimate transference. And of course that’s when Dren mutates–like how Fred and Ginger switched sex because of … well, why? Stress? A coping mechanism? Did they ever really explain that?

Bill: Not that I saw.  The sudden biological and behavioral changes just happen with no real cause other than it being the end of the movie and an excuse for some action.  It was said previously in the film that Dren’s accelerated life would be very short anyway.  We didn’t need a big confrontation or a sudden body count.  Natali has said that his films always end implying that there may be another story.  I think he might of rushed to get to that point with Splice and lost what could’ve been a much more emotional ending that would’ve been more in line with the rest of the movie.

Fisty: Yeah. The crap climax–combined with already touchy subject matter–took a thoughtful and genuinely creepy sci-fi thriller cum horror into a Hollywood-typical action chase sequence, and ultimately alienated well, pretty much everyone. Except critics. For the most part. I hope that Natali keeps it up though, because horror needs more intelligent voices.

totally adorable!

Eli: Shouldn’t have had sex with her after midnight, dude.

Black Christmas

all is calm, all is dead

Black Christmas
aka Silent Night, Evil Night
aka Stranger in the House
aka Noël tragique
aka Un Natale rosso sangue
Director: Bob Clark
Released: 1974
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, John Saxon
Running time: 98 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

Co-eds dying near an open fire: It’s time for Christmas break, and none too soon. The sisters of the Pi Kappa Sigma sorority are celebrating with a post-finals and pre-break party, all unawares of the mumbling creep climbing a trellis into their attic. While they cozily guzzle cocktails and discuss plans for a Christmas charity event the next day, the mysterious stranger stumbles through an attic filled with childhood debris and makes his way into the house proper.

Downstairs, Jess answers a prank call from The Moaner and calls most of the ladies over to listen.  The caller says a lot of filthy things and, after some verbal pwnage from Barb, ends his call with a dead serious, “I’m going to kill you.”  Professional virgin Clare, upset by Barb’s constant razzing and cavalier attitude toward the rape of a local girl, and provocation of the nasty caller (and unaware of the nutter hiding upstairs,) breaks off from the rest of the girls and heads to her room to finish packing.  The rest of the sorority, making merry and bestowing gifts on the housemother, Mrs MacHenry, don’t hear a thing as the attic mumbler Laura Palmer-izes Clare and carries her corpse into the attic.

Clare’s disappearance is discovered the next day when her father looks for her at the sorority house after she fails to show up when he was supposed to meet her.  They head to the police station for help, where Barb mocks a lunkheaded cop with sexual innuendos while some townie woman reports her 13 year-old daughter missing.  Their efforts aren’t taken seriously until the tween’s body is found in a nearby park, and the capable Lieutenant Fuller takes over. With more prank calls coming in, a rape, a missing girl, and one dead body already found, the police connect the dots and tap the sorority house phones. It’s beginning to look a lot like Jess’ intense pianist boyfriend, Peter, might be unhinged and violently upset after she reveals to him that she’s pregnant and wants to get an abortion.  In the midst of all this and unknown to everyone, the murderer is already in the house and he’s going to kill every single one of the Pi Kappa Sigmas.

all bobby wants for christmas is agnes

Extremely influential, with some interesting characters and subplots, loaded with booze and wicked laughs,  a healthy mean streak and enough suspense to make Bumble piss himself, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas holds up well even today and is still a disturbing little package of holiday fear for any of us weirdos from The Island of Misfit Horror Hounds.

Bill: Black Christmas was a landmark in the development of the Slasher subgenre.  Without it, there would be no Halloween, no Friday the 13th or The Burning.  Now, I could explain the why and how of that, and Fisty and I will likely do so in a minute or two, but first, I’d like to talk about dirty words.  Filthy, nasty, deliciously perverted words.

“ho, ho, FUCK”

Sometimes, when I’ve got a few movies lined up that I’ve never seen, I’ll glance at the parental advisory notes on imdb to help me decide what I want to watch.  I’ll compare the amount of nudity, violence, gore, rape, alcohol and drug references and watch whatever has the most (or the most creative,) because I love all that stuff.  I know, however, that no matter how nude the nakedness and how bushy the bush and how bloody the bodies and violent the violence, it won’t be anything that I haven’t seen before in, like, over 9000 other flicks.  However, movies that are willing to go all out with their language are a little more uncommon.  I’m not talking about shit and fuck.  That’s nothing.   No, fuck is boring.  I’m talking about real raunch.  It may be common in certain areas of the internet, among your friends, sometimes (if you’re lucky) in the bedroom (though, even there you occasionally have problems with blushing, downward glances and mumbling,) and on Deadwood, but non-pornographic, cinematic raunch talk is a little more rare.  That’s probably why it still packs a bit of a punch and can be so memorable, maybe even more so now, than it would’ve been, since the P.C. Armies have sterilized the entire country.  Think of Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant demanding, “Show me how you suck a guy’s cock,” or Clarice explaining to Dr. Lector that Miggs said, “I can smell your cunt,” in Silence of the Lambs, or little possessed Regan in The Exorcist saying, “Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras.”  It can be jarring for the audience as well as the characters in a movie.  It even works in comedies, like Clerks, with Randall’s video ordering scene.  So it’s great when The Moaner busts out a few phrases that even make the girls in the ribald Pi Kappa Sigma house think he’s a creep.  This guy isn’t just breathing heavy or asking if they have Prince Albert in a can, he’s saying things like, “I’ll stick my tongue up your pretty pussy!”  Fuck yeah!  Even if Black Christmas weren’t the suspenseful, influential shocker that it is, I’d still have to give thanks to Bob Clark for giving us a horror movie that uses the line, “Let me lick your pretty piggy cunt!”  That’s good stuff.

“you fucking CREEP!”

Fisty: Speaking of cunts, lets talk characters. Barb is going to get a lot of attention for being a Grade A cunt at least for the line, “Darling, you can’t rape a townie,” but she’s really not that bad. Sure, she’s outrageous, but thanks to her convo with her skank mother, we know she’s just acting out because she feels unloved and alone, hence her forlorn bid for company in inviting her sorority sisters to go skiing with her. Though she seems to be alienating First Girl Clare with her vulgarity, Barb also invites her along skiing because she’s desperate for affection; she’s a classic Poor Little Rich Girl. Notice the dichotomy between Barb’s room and Clare’s: Barb’s is almost a little girl’s room, abundant in flounces, purple, and crystal animals, while Clare’s features rock posters, alcohol, and sexual permissiveness–all the things her daddy dreads about college and growing up. Who is really the professional virgin here? Despite Clare’s shyness about some things, Barb appears emotionally stunted in contrast, a bratty little girl drunkenly spewing profanity at the dinner table, but a sad and pathetic one, too.

twelve ladies of pi sigma kappa

Bill: I liked Barb quite a bit.  She’s probably the deepest character in the movie and Kidder absolutely gives the best performance.  She’s a hoot, too.  I’d totally hang out with Barb.  She and Future Barb, aka Mrs. Mac, who is my second favorite alcoholic in the film, both kind of reminded me of Fisty.  Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic, but I was secretly hoping that Mrs. M and Clare’s father would get it on.

Fisty: I am SO flattered.

Notwithstanding Barb’s barbs at Clare (haHA!), something I dig about the Pi Kappa Sigmas is how they really do have a sororal feeling. Too often a slasher set in a sorority house or other all-female environment is an excuse for boobs n’ butts, and a showcase for the worst possible catty female behavior. But Barb’s an equal opportunity needler, digging in on anyone within range, and she does harbor some affection for Claire. All the other sisters still in the house seem to genuinely like one another, and don’t sink into a mire of bitchery when the going gets tough.

Maybe because it’s an ur-slasher, Black Christmas features a pretty wide range of developed characters, 3D all the way (no glasses required). Outside the world of Black Christmas, they could be in other movies, other stories–shit, they could be real. The sole exception to that, though, is our Final Girl, Olivia Hussey’s Jess. Is it Hussey’s odd lock-jawed, Gloria Upson-esque delivery? Or her expressionless face? Is it just that Jess is kind of a bore, other than the abortion subplot? I just don’t know.

“and she STEPPED on the BALL”

Bill: Oh god, The Abortion!  As any American fan of Degrassi knows, Canadians aren’t afraid to address the abortion issue in entertainment the way Americans are.  When it’s mentioned that Debbie is pregnant in Friday the 13th Part 3, rather that explore that and find out more about it, whether she wants the baby or not, flesh out the character, and turn it into the highly dramatic subplot it deserves to be, they instead completely dropped anything else about it from the rest of the movie, because that is way too potentially offensive of a topic to deal with in a movie that is ABOUT BRUTAL SPREE MURDERS!  Ugh.  Thankfully, even though it came six years earlier, Black Christmas doesn’t do the same.

Fisty: No, Clark dives right in, but without sensationalizing it. Let us recall that Roe v. Wade was hardly a year old when Clark started work on Black Christmas, yet he resists the urge to make Jess’ pregnancy a moralizing force in the movie. Her pregnancy has no bearing on whether she lives or dies, and only she and Crazy Peter give a shit about it. It’s refreshing to see abortion not take over the entire film (perhaps Steve Miner was taking notes, Bill?).

i’m crazy sensitive, and i will MAKE you love me

Bill: Nah, he was just pussying out.

Fisty: You’re probably right; I mean, it came up like, zero times after it was mentioned. What the hey?

Now, I debated with myself whether the abortion thing might be some of why I don’t like Jess, and I don’t feel that it is. After all, who am I to judge; I did the same myself at her age. She comes across as cold not because she knows she doesn’t have her shit together enough to bring a baby into the world, or because she dismisses Peter’s frankly hysterical and unbalanced reaction, but because she’s a total snore of a person and Olivia Hussey was replaced by a mannequin for this role.

However, Jess’ plight is actually important to the movie. It’s symbolic of that of all the killer’s victims: They are young women venturing out into the great wide world for the first time, and they have a great deal to overcome. Second-wave feminism and women’s lib had young women not simply translating themselves from their parents’ home to that of their husbands, but making their own ways. Instead of the working on their Mrs, the girls of Pi Kappa Sigma have plans for careers–one of the reasons Jess refuses to give in to Peter’s demands (and my god, it is a relief to not see some “trapping a man with pregnancy” thing come up). But because they’re out in the world, in the public sphere, they are also endangered, and that’s the crux of Black Christmas. It juxtaposes the coziness of a family- and hearth-oriented holiday like Christmas with the cold, unreasoning brutality of the Killer. Notice how in virtually every scene there is a nod to the season: crackling fires, candles, wreaths, snow, twinkling lights and decor. The domestic sphere is where he strikes the Pi Kappa Sigmas, and that is where they’ll die; they aren’t hothouse flowers too delicate to survive  outside, but rather a leggy species that thrives on neglect and withers under too much attention. At Christmastime, when other families cozy up and love one another, the Pi Sigma Kappas die in their home, together.

death by unicorn

Where are the Pis (heh heh) threatened and killed? In their home. What is central to the Christmas holiday? Being home. It’s not because they’re out in the world that these girls die; it’s not that they’re being strong, adventurous, or sexually liberated that kills them. They die because we all can die, anywhere and at any time. That’s just how the world is, my friend.

Bill: The Pis manage to die pretty well.  Plastic bags (with the vacuum-sealed corpse placed by an attic window for creepy effect), metal hooks to the face, crystal unicorn stabbings…  It’s creative stuff.  They tend to stick with the Texas Chainsaw model of onscreen murder, using very little blood and gore (or nudity *pout*), instead letting the twisted nature of the killings creep you out rather than gross you out.  In a lesser movie, this might disappoint me, since I love the red stuff, but BC is a solid flick, suspenseful, and works just the way it is.   I’d have loved to have seen Margot’s tatas though …  Sigh.

I want to talk a bit about the end of the movie, so, for those that haven’t seen it or hate spoilers:


Bill: They use Peter as the big red herring of the movie, but, in fact, he just ends up another victim.  The identity of the real killer, Billy, if what he says can be believed, is never revealed.  You never see his face.  You never learn his motives or what he’s talking about when he mentions Agnes or what he and Agnes did.    It’s never even clear if the rape of the townie or the murder of the tween in the park are even related to him at all.  Billy, maybe even more so than The Shape from my lord and savior’s Halloween, is the perfect faceless bogeyman.  He’s crazy and he kills and he’s still out there and that is all there is to it, no spoon-fed explanatory (or even worse, justifying) backstory about flesh-eating bacteria on his face or a vulgar stripper mama.  In the real world, crazy doesn’t always have a reason, killing doesn’t always have a purpose and survivors don’t always get closure.  That, to me, is way scarier than an over-explained, cliche revenge motive.

Fisty: When I first saw Black Christmas back in high school, I wasn’t terribly impressed. In fact, I was infuriated and found it aggravating, in large part due to the ending. It seemed totally ridiculous to me that everyone would just wander off and leave Jess like that–and with The Killer still in the house! I must have been mental, though, because as an adult, it makes perfect sense and that ambiguity works for me. It works HARD. After all, Lt Fuller and the rest of The Authorities have every reason to believe there are no further threats; Peter was evidently the killer, and he’s dead. The doctor states that he’ll stay with Jess until her parents arrive (and presumably Chris, too–there always seems to be a little more going on there than is ever stated), but Mr Harrison’s sudden collapse necessitates his being borne away by the doc and Chris for medical attention. As the camera pans out on the now silent and peaceful house–inhabited by only an unconscious Jess and a Killer–we see a lone police officer standing guard on a Christmas light-festooned porch. The Authorities are doing their job, see? That phone ringing? (He must have made a phone call after each murder.) Nothing to worry about … all is calm, all is bright.

away in a sorority house

Watching that final shot now, as the credits start to roll, I get chickenskin every time. Every. Time.


Bill: Oh, we were supposed to talk about all of that early slasher groundbreaking stuff that everyone else has already said, huh?

Fisty: Pioneering killer POVs, discordant slasher soundtracks, undiscriminating and incomprehensible killers, Black Christmas deserves its reputation as one of the ur-slashers, and makes a delightful seasonal entertainment. It’s smart, cunningly photographed, and genuinely disturbing, and with some of the most iconic images and tropes in American horror, etc etc etc.

Bill: Wow.  You’re good at that.

Fisty: I’m hoping if I get better, I’ll get to bone John Saxon.

sergeant nash, lieutenant fuller, and officer chuckles

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, everyone!