Ginger Snaps (2000)
Director: John Fawcett
Two Goth-like sisters who hate the world and have a fascination with death, see their morbid existence turned upside down when the older of the two gets slapped with two curses: her first period and a werewolf bite. And you know what that means: lots of “Tampax”.
Today, I was having a good day. Summer is here, the short skirts have arrived and so have the tight tops. I went into this flick with a big smile on my face; I came out in a body bag. If you’re expecting another mindless, soundtrack-selling, fashionable US horror lollipop flick, you will be most seriously let down. “Ginger Snaps” is not a happy movie.
Much like Cronenberg’s “The Fly” was a metaphor for AIDS, this flick uses the werewolf convention as a metaphor for a young woman’s entry into womanhood (yes, “the rag”). The awkward feelings, the mood swings, the physical changes, the need to be accepted, the hunger for boys and all that jive. This is undoubtedly a horror flick that chicks will relate to, as both leads are extremely well developed and what they go through will surely connect with a female audience.
When the two main characters were first introduced, I didn’t particularly sympathize or relate to either one of them. The most disgusting part of the flick for me was Mimi Rogers' description of the menstrual cycle; did I really need to hear that? I was sure that the film would be some kind of horror/feminist hybrid that would alienate my masculine arse. Fortunately for me, I was wrong. Both sisters evolve as the film progresses (especially Brigitte) and the film not only comments on female issues, but eventually brings up themes of love, loyalty and loss. The more the flick ticked forward, the more it became about “human” issues. Thank you…
Another aspect of this flick that had me hooked was the manner in which the sisters’ parents were portrayed (reminded me of “Heathers” a bit). The film played them out on most counts from the perspective of the girls. They’re in the background, what they say don’t mean much, they’re just there. Didn’t we all feel that way at 15? I know I did. Where the father (Bourgeois) is ridiculously out of the game and whipped to boot (cracked me up), the mother (Rogers) has this odd presence about her. I don’t really know what the movie was hinting at, but her reactions to grisly events were quite surprising. I’m even gonna toss out the theory that she might've gotten a little hairy on a full moon herself. Whatever the filmmaker was trying to communicate with Rogers’ character worked. It was ambiguous and compelling.
I do however have an axe to grind with a few elements from the film. First off, having the werewolf virus be sexually contagious led to a silly subplot involving a teenage boy. His scenes stood out and even though I admire the ballsy direction that the script took, they didn’t go far enough with the subplot for its presence to be justified. It felt like an obvious plot device to me. I also didn’t buy the teens finding an anti-werewolf cure in like 2 minutes. Shite, are these social rejects or scientists? I also didn’t agree with the film’s decision to abandon the character of the mom and dad. Where were they in the last 20 minutes? I felt like the mom character in particular needed a better conclusion. They could’ve all made great werewolf snacks! And last but not least, the flick’s last act drags on for a tad too long and should’ve gotten to the point faster.
In the end, Ginger Snaps depressed the hell out of me and made me reach for the liquor cabinet when I got home. I guess I haven’t seen an intelligent horror flick in a while and it took me aback. This is not a “fun times” flick. It’s a gloomy character study with a supernatural layer to make the point hit harder. One thing’s for sure: it’s wonderful to see such meaty parts for chicks in horror flicks. Girrls finally get their day! Snap this…
This one needs more than a pad to soak up all of its blood. We get mutilated dogs, clawed throats, blood-filled walls, blood lapping (yuck) and some groovy wolf effects. In fact, the full-out wolf getup looked pretty kool and reminded me of “The Howling”. If it was done with CGI, it didn’t show at all!
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger) kicks arse as the lupine-like Ginger. She handles her transitions very well, looks great in the wolf getup and acts opposite Perkins like a champ. Emily Perkins (Brigitte) also gives a very strong showing, communicating her desperation and evolution very well. Both girls give standout performances. I was never a Mimi Rogers (Pamela) fan, but in this movie her aloof stare and her overused smile worked for the part…creepy! Kris Lemche (Sam) plays the kool dude to a T and sure looks gnarly with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. A deeper exploration into his character would have been nice. All I know here is that he has a nice jacket and likes to pop cherries. John Bourgeois (Henry) doesn’t say much but his hyper whipped expressions made me laugh big time…I needed those laughs.
T & A
We get to see Ginger’s tail!
The opening montage of the fake death pictures that the two sisters took is amazing and a great way to start the film. The camera movements are dead on, the tension is there and I dug the fade in/fade out that the director used during the movie’s final transformation. The flick feels very bleak and I appreciated the hints of style that surfaced from time to time. Should’ve cut down that finale though…it dragged.
The film starts off by booming a few grunge-like tunes our way, but then drops all that and sticks to a somber score.
I’m so used to commercial garbage that in a weird way, this unique flick kept on letting me down. I kept on wanting it to take the “cliché” way, have more kills or more thrills. So when it was all over, I was a bit confused on how to feel about the movie. But now that the smoke has cleared and the alcohol has kicked in, I see the film for what it is: an original, intelligent in-depth look at two teenage girls going through the hardest period of their lives…and one of them just happens to be turning into a werewolf. You want a “fun times” summer movie? Don’t even dare enter the theatre for this film. You want horror with brains, heart and originality? Give Ginger a call…
John Fawcett also directed the little known Canadian film “The Boys Club” (1997). It stars Devon Sawa and Chris Penn and I recommend you check that out too. It’s a bit like “Stand By Me” but with more violence.