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 has been done before. Yet we have never really seen a telling as strong as Ginger Snaps with the focus on the female side of proceedings. This is where the film gets to stand out and own a small little corner of the horror genre and garner itself a solid cult following. What works best is that although this is very much a story from the female perspective, all teenagers can gravitate towards it. We either knew or were the characters in the film at some point (minus the actual werewolves). The relatability of all involved is what becomes one of its core strengths.
This is all down to the writing by Karen Walton and John Fawcett. They fill their film with so many perfect little moments and by telling the majority of the film through younger sibling Brigitte’s eyes, we are able to see how devastating life and growing up can be. They also bring in themes of jealousy of siblings into the film, whether that be Brigitte’s confused feelings to Ginger suddenly being popular or with Ginger herself when she believes Brigitte is trying to copy her.
The bond they thought they had is fracturing, simply by them growing up and becoming less symbiotic. No longer feeling the need to keep to their blood oath of “Out by sixteen or dead in this scene, but together forever”. Under all of the horror, there is still a very good family drama going on here. Which again allows the film to excel above its own expectations.
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 however, 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 a refreshing 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.
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