Wednesday, October 20, 2010

13 FOR HALLOWEEN #4: Ginger Snaps

Sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) are two normal teenage girls living in a Canadian suburb when –

Nah, scratch that. Ginger and Brigitte are maladjusted 16 and 15 year old sisters whose idea of an art project at school is to present a sequence of photographs depicting themselves as suicide victims. They’re permanently disaffected and uncommunicative. They make goths look joyous and emos seem effervescent.

Kind of understandable really. They live in a dull, washed-out suburbia and have the embarrassment of the world’s perkiest mom (Mimi Rogers) who wears horrible sweaters, incessantly enquires as to whether they’ve had their period yet and sports pumpkin earrings at Halloween.

School’s not much better than home, populated as it is by asshole jocks like Jason (Jesse Moss) and bitch teen princess Trina (Danielle Hampton). It sucks, too, that going out at night is strictly verboten given the spate of vicious attacks on neighbourhood dogs. When an eviscerated canine turns up on the hockey field, Trina vengefully trips Brigitte so she falls face-first into the decomposing mess. (The catalyst for this act is Brigitte referring to Trina as a “cum bucket”.)

Planning retribution, Ginger and Brigitte sneak out at night with the intent of kidnapping Trina’s dog and leaving some of the fake blood and viscera from their “suicide” photographs outside its kennel. They never get there. Ginger, who has finally started her period, is attacked by a werewolf. Brigitte tries to fend the beast off and it’s only dispatched when passing drug pusher Sam (Kris Lemche) runs over it with his van.

In your average werewolf movie, this would be the point at which Ginger develops a tendency to sprout hair (which she does), howl at the moon (which she doesn’t) and randomly devour people (the movie has “snaps” in the title; take a guess). Director John Fawcett, working from a gem of a script by Karen Walton, does a hell of a lot more with the material. Allaying Ginger’s late menstruation with a different and more feral change – the tagline “they don’t call it the curse for nothing” sums up the concept pithily – the film becomes a metaphor for sexual awakening, female empowerment and the dangers of heightened self-awareness.

In short order, Ginger transforms from dowdy to foxy to downright fucking scary but still kinda sexy with it …

… and promptly starts smoking weed, arguing with Brigitte, pissing her mother off even more than usual, and hanging out with Jason the asshole jock. Initially Jason can’t believe his luck, particularly when Ginger comes on all hot and heavy during a back-seat make out. He soon gets scared, though. It’s bad enough when she takes the lead and starts treating him like a girl. Worse is Ginger’s extreme version of a love bite. The final straw is when Jason pisses blood. At this point, he rounds on Brigitte, wanting to know what the deal is with her sister.

Brigitte, still idolizing her big sis despite all the nasty shit that’s going down (this sentence perhaps explains why Sight and Sound are still reluctant to engage my services), has already put it together and, in league with Sam, is working towards a cure. However, thanks to Jason’s impeccable sense of bad timing and Mrs Fitzgerald interfering for all the right reasons at totally the wrong moment, Brigitte and Sam find themselves playing beat-the-clock as Ginger’s transformation reaches completion and they only have one shot at curing her.

‘Ginger Snaps’ is not only the best werewolf opus since ‘An American Werewolf in London’, it’s also an inspired black comedy, a razor-sharp and black-heartedly accurate high school movie, and a celebration of individuality, feminism and sisterhood. They say that blood is thicker than water. For Ginger and Brigitte, the question is whether blood is thicker than blood-lust.


Bryce Wilson said...

Great review, it's been rewarding to watch this build the cult following it deserves in the last ten years.

"Brigitte, still idolizing her big sis despite all the nasty shit that’s going down (this sentence perhaps explains why Sight and Sound are still reluctant to engage my services),"

Seriously, you refer to one character as a "fuck stick" and suddenly they lose your number.

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks, Bryce.

I remember 'Ginger Snaps' opening in the UK to incredibly positive reviews, then playing for a couple of days at my local arthouse theatre and promptly disappearing. I still can't understand why it's not better known or appreciated, though like you say it's good that the film's started to generate a cult following.

Somehow, neither of the sequels have ever appeared on my radar. Have you seen them; are they worth
a watch?

J.D. said...

This is the film that JENNIFER'S BODY wished it could have been. Ah, good ol' Canadian horror. I really love this film and it shows that the best of this genre tends to be low budget with no real name stars (Mimi Rogers, I guess) and load of creativity.

I'm not a huge fan of the sequels. Actually, one's a prequel. They are pretty decent but no where near as good as the first film.

Bryce Wilson said...

I haven't seen them Neil, but I've heard they're not that great.

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks for the heads up on the prequel/sequels, guys. I'll probably wait till they show up on TV one night rather than wasting any money on them.

Aaron said...

Glad you like this one, Neil. It's one of my favorite werewolf movies. I actually have a story to go along with my first experience with this movie, but I'll spare you the boring details. I will just say that I was NOT expecting to be as good as it was. The great thing about werewolf movies, or lycanthropia, or whatever the fuck you want to call it, is that you can take the mythology and the werewolf conventions and manipulate them in so many different ways as far as using metaphors... addiction, multiple personalities, someone with a bad temper, and, in this movie's case, a girl achieving womanhood. Love it. Although I will say that after watching this movie about 20 times, the dialogue and Isabelle's acting gets to be a bit annoying.

As far as the sequels, Bryce is right... a lot of people don't really have a whole lot of positive things to say about them, but I happen to love both of them. To me, part 2 is about as good as a sequel to the first one can get (and it's noteworthy for featuring one of the most unlikable characters I've ever seen). Part 3, I seem to be in the minority with my love for that one. I'd love to see you review both of them. (hint, hint)