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RATED Not Rated
STUDIO Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME 108 minutes
• Interviews with cast and crew
• Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by John Fawcett and Karen Walton
• New Women in Horror Panel Discussion
• Commentary with John Fawcett
• Commentary with Karen Walton
• Creation of the Beast
• Cast Auditions and Rehearsals
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
The best Werewolf-on-her-period movie EVER.
Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Mimi Rogers, Kris Lemche, and Jesse Moss
Fifteen-year-old Brigitte Fitzgerald and her nearly-sixteen-year-old sister Ginger are both best friends and outcasts. Obsessed with dying and bound by a childhood pact to stay together forever, they loathe their mind-numbing existence in the suburbs and Bailey Downs. One night, the two girls are heading through the woods when Ginger is savagely attacked by a wild creature. Ginger’s horrible wounds miraculously heal over, but something is not quite right about her. Ginger is irritable and in denial. But to Brigitte, it is obvious that a terrifying force has taken hold of her sister. She’s convinced that the insatiable craving her sister is experiencing can mean only one thing – Ginger is becoming something unspeakably evil and monstrous.
Werewolves are a good vehicle for metaphor. Savagery, serial killing, cannibalism, tribalism, community, they work on several levels. From Wolf Lake’s “Dynasty-with-skinwalkers” to David Morrell’s ‘Salem’s-Lot-with-werewolves-but-the-werewolves-are-actually-hippies-with-rabies novel The Totem they’ve been used to symbolize a great many different aspects of human nature, both good and bad. Puberty is a common metaphor used in these stories but it always seem to involve boys, no werewolf story had ever really touched on girls until 2000’s Ginger Snaps.
At surface level, Ginger Snaps‘ plot reads like the punchline to a particularly misogynistic joke. Late-bloomer Ginger Fitzgerald gets her first period the same night she’s bitten by a werewolf, over the next month she becomes more savage and sexual but nobody seems to notice because they just assume it’s PMS.
In another person’s hands that might have been all it ever was but director John Fawcett, who co-created the story with writer Karen Walton, frames that premise as a joke within a joke. The story is filtered through the eyes of Ginger’s sister Brigitte. Brigitte is a dry and gloomy person with contempt for everyone but her sister and her view gives the movie a farcical tone. She’s the only person who can clearly see what’s happening and it makes everyone else look cartoonishly stupid. It’s like an extremely dark episode of Daria or a Lucky McKee movie without the lesbian subplot.
Ginger Snaps is comedic in tone but it’s still very much a horror film. Brigitte and Ginger have a very deep bond and you can see Brigitte’s world falling apart as Ginger becomes an entirely different person and then not even a person at all. The Ginger Snaps universe has the harshest form of lycanthropy; it’s a virus that infects a host and then in the space of a month turns them into a giant monster dog that will never become human again. It’s an ugly and mean story at it’s core so despite the laughs, this is a movie with teeth.
But it’s not just a bloody dark comedy about teenage angst, dry humor, and puns. There is a very deep understanding of the characters and a fairly clever trick in revealing them. As I said earlier the movie is pretty much from Brigitte’s point of view and the arch tone seems to be the result of her putting her own spin on events as though she were relating the story to the audience as it happens. But what’s interesting is that those other “cartoonishly stupid” characters suddenly show a great deal of depth once Brigitte gets to know them. The creepy drug dealer becomes an intelligent and thoughtful person, perhaps a tentative love interest though the movie never gets into that aspect. The girls’ cheerful dingbat of a mother shows a deep sadness and determined desire to protect her children. Even Ginger changes, though it’s more of regression into the sort of person that Brigitte hates as a result of what she sees as a betrayal.
Ginger Snaps has a lot of hidden layers and they’re all superb. It’s the best kind of feminist horror movie, one that puts its message at the back of the narrative and tells a good story first. It’s got an agenda but it’s subtle about it, telling it mostly through perspective and characterization rather than knocking the audience over the head with it (looking at you, All Cheerleaders Die.)
A lot of reviews of this movie praise Katharine Isabelle, and deservedly so, for her excellent acting and memorable performance as Ginger but Emily Perkins barely ever gets mentioned and that’s a shame. Perkins carries this movie. Despite what the title may suggest this is Brigitte’s story and Perkins anchors the story with real emotion and wit. She sets the mood of the movie and she deserves to be honored along with her costar. (So Soska sisters, if you’re reading this, Emily Perkins needs a career revival too!)
Werewolf movies are almost always terrible, there’s really only six that I would consider great and this is definitely one of them. (For those curious, the other five are Bad Moon, Silver Bullet, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and Dog Soldiers) If there’s any complaint I have about this movie at all, it’s that the wolf itself is kinda rubbery (particularly toward the end) but werewolf suits are hard to do, and I won’t hold that against it too much.
Ginger Snaps is a perfect film, I would change nothing about it even if I could. The acting is superb, it’s clever, it’s creepy, it’s depressing, it’s dark. It’s everything I could have expected and more and it’s the sort of movie that doesn’t come along every day. I cannot recommend it enough.
This is a great release from Shout! There’s two separate commentaries, deleted scenes (also with commentaries), an hour-long retrospective with a the director, writer, composer, SFX artist, Emily Perkins and Jesse Moss. A featurette on the creation of the monster and a couple other little featurettes that are pretty skippable. Unfortunately Shout! wasn’t able to get anything from Katharine Isabelle but it’s likely due to her full schedule as she’s never had anything but good words to say about this movie. If you like Ginger Snaps this is the edition to own.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars