BLOG: YTC Episode XXXIII: Snap!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in the United Kingdom, people with ginger hair tend to get picked on. I have seen this first hand via my own red-headed friends being insulted due to their locks. Of course this is a hate crime with no justification. The fact I *may* have mocked them myself- just a little bit- was always with love and sensitivity hidden inside of the barbed comments… Honest.

 

Mocking the ginger-haired people is not only discriminatory, but it is also downright foolish. For one thing Red hair seems to be associated with Viking and the Celtic genes- neither of whom are known for their social niceties.

In addition, a large source of modern red-heads seems to be the Scots and the Irish, and both of these nationalities have particular cultural reputations for being hard drinking hell raisers. Then of course you get the odd rock star like Josh Homme. Whether you dig his music or not, he’s around 65t 5 and looks like he knows his way around a bar fight.

Queen of the Stone Age indeed!

Tougher than all of these dangerous gingers though would be the character of Ginger. You know, as in ‘Ginger the werewolf’!

SEGUE!!!!

Long time readers (both of ‘em) will know my perchance for a good werewolf fable. My reasons for liking the furry beasts can be found in a previous entry.

One Lupine movie that I have been meaning to revisit again is the low budget Canadian flick, Ginger Snaps.

Taking a less supernatural route than say An American Werewolf In London, The Wolfman or Curse Of The Werewolf, Ginger Snaps treats the Werewolf curse as more like Hepatitis, an infection of the blood that can come from various means.

Uh… Not that I’d know, or anything.

 

Ginger Snaps takes this scientific concept of Lycanthrapy and mixes it with the sexualisation of teenagers. The film is not only about Werewolves, but also a coming-of-age story about a 15 year old girl, Ginger and her 14 year old sister, Brigitte.

Ginger Snaps opens with a dead dog scene, complete with a blood smeared child, a screaming parent and Dutch-Camera Angles. As the camera pushes past the canine corpse, it goes into the darkness of the kennel, and… we’re off!

What follows is a fantastic introductory sequence for the two main characters of the film, Ginger and Brigitte. These two sisters share wonderfully over-the-top teen angst talk to frame the whole film. This is the kind of conversations that are completely heartfelt from an insulated, teen perspective but that will also one day be looked back on through older, gritted teeth at their inane earnestness.

 

Sisters doing it for themselves

Here is some sample dialogue form Ginger and Brigitte from this opening. The sisters are alluding to a suicide pact in lieu of being tired of being misunderstood.

Ginger: Suicide is like… the ultimate ‘fuck you’! …”Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever”. C’mon! “Together forever…”

Brigitte: “…United against life as we know it”.

 Through just this dialogue, the two sisters are presented as archetype teens that are believable. Their simultaneous mix of sincerity and naivety is horrifyingly spot-on. This brief character set up then leads into the fabulous (yeah, I used that word) credits sequence. These credits present numerous fake suicides staged by the Sisters.

Teens always leave a mess in the bathroom

Ultimately these staged deaths are revealed to be a part of an art project at school, dismissed with their mothers angry line “I told you girls; No more deaths in the house!”

Given the earlier conversation between the two sisters, these credits suggest a much darker scenario has taken place. In effect, not only do the opening credits present a unique title sequence for Ginger Snaps, but they also set up the world of the protagonists, and thus the film, for the audience. Ginger and Brigitte live in a world that is in equal parts playful, misunderstood, creative, morbid and black humoured. Which is a pretty ideal place to be for a horror film audience!

The girls art piece proves to be unpopular with their teacher, and the girls retreat to their PE class. They play Field Hockey, presented as a literal battlefield for the teenage girls of the school.

Despite being despised and mocked as ‘the weirdos’ in their year, Ginger is also starting to become noticed by some of the boys. One of the local jocks, Jason, begins to hit on her. Despite Brigitte knocking Jason for even trying it on with Ginger, Ginger is obviously just a little bit flattered by her first brush with being desirable.

For reasons linked to their bullying, by the evening the girls end up out alone in a woodland. Ginger has just begun to experience menstruation, which rather unluckily for her attracts a giant Wolf. Pff, always the way. Attacked, Ginger is bitten but the two sisters manage to run away from the beast. As the sisters come across an intersection, a local drug dealer, Sam, accidentally runs over the pursuing Wolf I his van, killing it.

“This one comes witha free calender”

And so begins Ginger Snaps study of Ginger as she goes through a difficult physical transformation- no, not becoming a werewolf. Puberty.

The fact that Ginger’s first period led to their attack is the very first link between womanhood and werewolf-ism. In fact throughout the whole movie both Ginger and Brigitte refer to periods as ‘the Curse’. The fact the Wolf was defeated by a speeding van, rather than a silver bullet, also presents the beasts as dangerous but not necesarilly supernatural.

The remainder of Ginger Snaps is a fun mixture of these two aspects, sexualisation and science. Without breaking down the entire movie, as Ginger becomes more animalistic in her daily life she becomes ferocious and sexual. Brigitte, feeling even more alone, withdraws into a world of research with the drug dealer Sam. Together the seek a cure for Werewolf effects via botany.

It is the journey of both characters that allow the film to show the progression of female teens in society. Ginger worries about her looks and reputation (“I can’t have a hairy chest!”) as she begins to embrace her control of men via her looks. Brigitte is dismissed as childlike by Ginger for focusing on books and for net yet having started her own menstrual cycle.

Although both sisters are going down opposite routes in life, they are presented as being equally limited within their own social structure as to ow they are viewed by the rest of the world. As Ginger says;

Ginger:“A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease, or the virgin next door.”

(Sponsorship welcomed!)

Ginger, aside from a few murders here and there, has only really acted like Jason and the jocks so far as her classmates know. Yet she is now burdened with a slutty reputation. Brigitte has done nothing but work hard with Sam, and she is gaining her own reputation somewhere between being a tease and a virgin. Ginger Snaps shows not only the difficulties of women changing physically, but also the emotional toll of new peer groups/judgements caused by how they react to hitting puberty.

Even ignoring sex as a Wereolf-conceit, the Werewolf infection also allows Ginger to express feelings of frustration and powerlessness ripe at a teen age.

Ginger:“I get this ache… And I, I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.“

 

Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s Maybeleine

Comparing Ginger’s now very present anger and strength to the early scene in the bedroom is quite interesting. Whereas the girls formerly discussed suicide as a form of protest, they have now moved on. They have both grown up enough to go beyond such theatrical melodrama. Ginger is now taking her anger out on the world, but Brigitte is finding a inner will for survival through independence.

The clarim that this is a completely female-centric film is furthered throughout the film by the girls mother completely dismissing her husband. Everything she says or does is ‘for her girls’ and she insists that all men ‘only want one thing’.

In fact all of the male characters are fairly sidelined. The character of Sam is prominent throughout the narrative, but the motive for his attempts to help are questionable, and his effectiveness virtually non-existent. When both Sam and Brigitte square up against an enraged Ginger in Wolf form, Brigitte is the quick thinker who keeps them alive. Sam is…. dead meat, so to speak.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Meanwhile Jason, the jock who went after Ginger, has contacted a form of STD from her when she essentially raped him. The men on display are either untrustworthy or at least ineffective.

We’ve al peed blood, right guys…? Right?!?!

Make no mistake regarding the content of the film though, this is all delivered fairly smoothly. Ginger Snaps is not some dry biology study. First and foremost a quick-witted horror-comedy.

Despite its clever appropriation of Werewolf’s as a metaphor for female puberty, it is still an piece of entertainment designed for horror fans- not just feminist theorists. The sharp dialogue alone is proof enough of this. To my mind, Ginger Snaps true success is that is a film largely made by women, about women but for everyone.

Oh, and one final note. Ginger Snaps features a TERRIBLE looking Werewolf. The film was low budget, and it is nearly 15years old. So that is kind of understandable, but really it is craptacular. Even so, as with many special effects these days it is still more engaging to watch this awful prop wobble on camera than any form of CGI. This is of course an old argument in film circles, but it’s still a point worth repeating; there is just no substitute for charm. Particularly in horror comedies.

Hungry like the wolf

Anyhoo, that’s enough about Ginger and Brigitte. Unless I choose to write about the undervalued sequel of course… meh,maybe. But probably not the so-so prequel.

Next Time I’ll be writing about Rooby Rooby Roo.

Thanks for reading,

MJ

BLOG: YTC Episode XXXII: Dial Z for Zach

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell. Zach Quinto from the recent Star Trek. Zack Ryder, former Bro-ski. Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover. Zack something or other from Zack and Miri Make A Porno. All of these men are but imitators to the one, true Zack/Zach of today’s piece, Zach Galligan!

 

Watch out for the Zack Attack!

Wait, who?!

Does the name ring a slight bell in the back of your head? Well, me too. In fact I sat through all of Hatchet III thinking ‘who is playing that Sheriff?’

 

My curiosity was sated once I saw the the End Credits. Why, it was Zach Galligan, both a familiar face and a familiar name. One noun will probably erase any nagging- itch on some of your minds as to who Zach Galligan is.

Gremins.

So.... you like any Mogwai albums?
So…. you like any Mogwai albums?

Any one who grew up with the demented joy of Joe Dante’s Gremlins (and massively underrated sequel–  will know of Mr. Galligan. He played the frizzy-haired young adult, Billy.

Billy was the lead human in the movie who should have listened to his father’s instructions a little more clearly. After the monumental success of Gremlins, and to a lesser degree it follow up, it seemed as though Mr Galligan had sadlydropped off of the Hollywood radar. Yet he did not drop off of the Cult radar thanks to two little low budget horror films, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time!

Both films feature Zach playing the role of Mark, a wealthy socialite who feels there is more to life than being a snob. Despite being a Millionaire, Mark attends a local high school for reasons never explained. Maybe they just had a really strong Open Evening one year. He attends school with his girlfriend, the blue collar Sarah. Of course no 1980’s American high school would be complete with a Jock, a tramp and a Wacky best friend, all of whom are peripheral characters to Mark’s lead.

In fact none of these supporting roles are really worth naming, although I will note that his Best Friend is played by Twin Peaks actor Dana ‘Bobby Briggs’ Ashbrook, and the slutty character is named China. Not Chyna the former wrestler or 80’s Action Kung-Fu character China O’Brian, just regular old China. Actress Michelle Johnson is perfectly average as China, but now that entire role seems very disappointing given those two alternative casting options…

At any rate, of course a film named Waxwork would not be complete without waxworks. In this case, killer waxworks. And naturally, any killer Waxwork exhibits just would not have the same presence without a brutish giant, a German midget and David Warner. So it’s a damn good thing that in this film David Warner runs the local Waxwork Museum with a German midget and a brutish giant!

Willy Warner had no Golden Tickets to spare.

Film fans may well recall David Warner from his well known turns as a bad guy in Titanic, Time After Time, Tron or Time Bandits. In fact if it is a film beginning with ‘T’ and David Warner crops up then place your bets on him being pure evil.

In Waxwork, Warner is using pieces of ‘History’s Most Evil 20 Killers!’ (that somehow include a Werewolf and the Maquis De Sade, but ignore Dictators) that Warner has mixed into his Wax figurines. All he needs is 20 victims to be killed, one per exhibit, to bring about more evil. Given his goal is to use evil to cause more evil, I can only imagine that ‘Evil’ is pretty addictive. Like Pringles.

evil pringle

Standing opposed to Warner is a cinematic icon of slightly lesser value; Patrick Macnee of TV’s The Avengers and an Oasis video. Hamming it up a plenty, Macnee plays Sir Wilfred, a wealthy relative of Zach Galligan’s Mark.

David Cameron???
David Cameron???

Sir Wilfred is a part of a sort of supernatural vigilante squad who have been on the lookout for Warner and his evil ways. Now with an end game in sight, they decide to fight once and for all. Incidentally the rest of Macnee’s squad seems to be made up of pensioner aged British folks who brandish pitchforks and torches. Apparently nobody fights evil like the British country-folk!

"I hope that's Shepard's Pie in my knickers"
“I hope that’s Shepard’s Pie in my knickers”

Aside from the somewhat loopy premise and genre casting, Waxwork remains a fairly fun watch. The main reason for this is it clearly made by horror-film fans. The set up of possessed Waxwork models allows for throwbacks to all manner of other films. Once a victim is lured into ‘the display piece’ of the Wax figures, the victims are then transported to another dimension where the exhibits are real.

This allows for the film to feature a Werewolf in a cabin scene starring Jonathan Rhys Davis, who would go on to do a bit better in the Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings series, a gothic Dracula scene set in a castle and even a Night Of The Living Dead scene shot in black and white!

 

Bad Dates.

Throughout Waxwork these cinematic allusions populate the film. Amongst the more obvious are references to a Mummy’s Curse, The Invisible Man, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (mixed with Little Shop of Horrors), The Phantom Of The Opera, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, a Golem and even a little Evil Dead 2. There are undoubtedly many more past films and books paid homage to, but for a low budget flick like Waxwork that is still an impressive number to shoehorn in.

The real ‘horror’ of the film though is its depiction of Sarah. Her scenes set in the Marquis De Sade’s realm are… questionably chauvinistic… or defiantly feminist, depending on how you view them. Sarah’s pleasure at her own kidnapping and torture is either down to badly written female roles or is displaying a greater sexual complexity than is often depicted in films by presenting Sarah as dominantly knowing that she likes to be dominated in painful ways.

Personally, I’m leading more towards the former since unfortunately Sarah really has no character to speak of throughout the film, but she suddenly sure does seem to love a whippin’!

 

Crack that whip!

The film as a whole has a strangely-off pace. Scenes like the vampire sequence seem to drag on quite slowly, whilst the Werewolf attack and the end fight are much quicker experiences. Despite any pacing issues though, the cast give the film a camp sense of glee that keep it watchable. Warner and Macnee come across as lower rent versions of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and the man of the hour Zach Galligan seems to relish going over the top in certain line deliveries.

However, no mention of Waxwork would be fair without a moment dedicated to… WAXWORK II: Lost in Time!

 

These two films actually play surprisingly well together, no doubt owing to some shared cast and the same Writer-Director, Anthony ‘Hellraiser III’ Hickox. Once again Zach Galligan returned to the role of Mark, and once more he seems to enjoy unfurling some manic energy at the ludicrous dialogue.

“I mustache you a question!”

From a plot sense, the twist this time around is that the Waxworks are no more. Instead, Mark and Sarah now travel through time and space as they seek evidence that the supernatural exists. Arguably even the fact the movie is called ‘Waxwork’ is a bit off since the sole Wax figure is a dismembered hand. But then again The Unbearable Lightness of Being did not feature any scales, so I’ll let it go.

What is more interesting about the Waxwork II than the title is that the film makers do not use it as an excuse to revisit famous horror genres as they did previously. Instead, they now use it to parody particular films! The highlights of which include…

– Bruce Campbell’s slapstick in a version of The Haunting!

The man, the chin, the legend!

– Martin Kemp as Dr. Frankenstein!

– The cheapest rip off of Alien known to man!

– A sword fight that crosses dimensions between certain types of well known zombies in a shopping mall all the way to a Godzilla attacked Tokyo!

These are better SFX than in the film

– David Carradine appearing for no real reason!

carradine

– A terrible rap over the end credits just like in The Monster Squad or Maniac Cop 2!

All in all, Waxwork II: Lost In Time is actually a lot zippier than the first film. Oddly, I would not recommend either one over the other, though. They are both of the same tone and made with the same budget that is akin to an average school dinner. Neither Waxwork movie is genuinely funny enough to be an endlessly watchable cult classic, but unfortunately neither is horrific enough to be even remotely scary, either. Yet this is not an attack on the films. Not every low budget horror comedy is going to be outstanding.

It should be stated that both films remain perfectly watchable entertainment. They are both disposable films with ideas high above their budgets, with fun ideas but average scripts . They are also both movies that the production designers give a good shot at pulling off.

In both instance the casting is mixed. Zach plays his part with a twinkle in his eye despite Mark being fairly plain. Most of the leads around Galligan are earnest and dull in equal measure, whilst the highlights are really the mass of cameo-ing legends collectively chewing on more scenery than a hungry hobo.

 

Of course the fun of spotting genre actors enjoying themselves in both of the Waxwork movies seems all the more fitting since it was Zach Galligan’s fun appearance in Hatchet III that led to this entire piece.

Furthermore, like real any Waxwork museums, the ideas of entertainment on display may seem dated, and the novelty of the experience may soon wear off, but there is indeed some good, innocent fun to be had with something lovingly crafted.

Next time , the Gingers fight back!

Thanks for reading,

-MJ