Somehow Ginger Snaps is 20 years old and that has shocked me right down to my little horror fan core as I very much remember getting the DVD for this in 2003 and loving the ever loving hell out of it. We even have it in our horror movies to watch series! But many moons (sorry) have gone by and I wanted to know if it was still as good as I remember.
Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) are two morose outcasts in their high school in a quiet run of the mill suburban town. As Ginger reaches her first menstruation, she is attacked by a wild animal. Soon enough Ginger begins to change and becomes popular, leaving the loyal Brigitte behind. With all of these changes Brigitte begins to think that Ginger is going through other changes that are not at all normal.
A lycanthrope story that actually focuses on the difficulties of being a teenager going through pubescent angst in the best way possible. We have seen a large number of films telling a tale similar to this that have just not gotten it right, especially on the female side. Which is why it was such an eye opening film to teenage me. Although it was obviously about a girl, I related to it immensely as a young teenager.
This is all down to the writing by Karen Walton and John Fawcett. The inclusion of telling this story through the eyes of the younger sibling Brigitte, who has yet to go through any pubescent changes is a brilliant touch. She gets to see what she thinks is her future, and how if her sister who was just as much of an outcast as she was, suddenly 180s, will she? There is also the deft touch of jealously, that for a duo who did everything together cemented by their blood oath of “Out by sixteen or dead in this scene, but together forever”.
With Ginger moving on to the next period of her life (for better or worse) Brigitte becomes jealous, she has been left alone, tossed to the side by her sole comrade in her young life.
Walton’s and Fawcett’s writing is what helps Ginger Snaps stand out, it is the small interactions between characters that elevates the entire piece from a standard horror to something more. Usually with horror films the interactions or just the personalities of the characters is cheesy and clichéd, especially in low budget films. Here we see characters that feel real and importantly dialogue that seems real, even 20 years on this is a script that still feels as relevant and undated as when it was released.
While we have a lot of drama of someone turning into a werewolf, the film is utterly rife with black comedy, that helps direct the film. For younger audiences like myself at the time it was perfect and due to its cult nature it is easy to see why young audiences continue to find this film. In a perfect world, this would be a film as well known as other werewolf classics, maybe because of its female centric premise that time hasn’t come yet, but we can only hope for the next number of years that it will find its place in the lime light.
By pure luck of having to look for his cast in Vancouver due to strikes from Toronto agencies who did not want to touch the film, Fawcett found long-time friends Isabelle and Perkins(despite Perkins playing the younger sibling, she is in fact 5 years older than Isabelle). This friendship made it a lot easier to sell that they were sisters, as it is evident how at ease each actress is with the other.
Isabelle helps drive the film as the confused and insecure Ginger who after gaining the confidence after starting her first period and attack. The hallway sequences perfectly soon becomes the frightened teenager who does not know how quite to handle her new body and her urges. Her natural indecisiveness of enjoying her new self and hating what she is becoming allows for the dual idea of puberty and a metaphor for lycanthropy. Isabelle while still a teenager at the time was able to provide the majority of the comical lines while keeping the sinister nature of her turn.
Perkins is the heart of the film who starts the film as the timid Brigitte, but as the film progresses we see her own confidence grow as she finds her own path separate from Ginger, even while she is trying to save her sister. It is clearly evident from the end of the film how much stronger a character Brigitte is and her own transformation is quite remarkable. It really is hard to imagine the film being cast with other actresses after seeing how well these two work so well together throughout Ginger Snaps, lightning really struck a bottle with this casting.
There are of course some faults with the film, but they are more of the idea that some aspects of the film are never fully realised, such as the sisters mother Pam (Mimi Rogers) who at times really feels wasted in her role or at the least seemed like her role was cut down in the final drafts or edits of the film. The small budget is also a hindrance but Fawcetts team work wonders with what they have as as much of the budget as possible obviously went on Ginger and her transformation as well as the gore for the deaths. The unlucky person who loses out here is the character of Jesse who’s own transformation is mostly pimples and teeth.
The final act basement scenes also cause a little bit of confusion as we are never sure as to how large this basement is due to it seemingly being never-ending with rooms.
This is of course but a minor complaint as Ginger Snaps is an intelligent horror film that at times goes beyond the genre and is able to connect with audiences (even 20 years later) in an easy manner. A rewarding viewing experience and one that will never quite be forgotten thanks to our leads.