Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)

Expertly uniting lycanthropy with menstruation, Ginger Snaps is a brilliant Brampton-filmed exercise, a sort of sisterhood of the unraveling pancreas, that proves the pain that comes with attaining functioning girl bits is eerily similar to the stress your body goes through when one finds themselves mutating into a werewolf. Now, I realize that cramps are real and that wolf-girl hybrids are not, but you can't deny the connection between the two is downright spooky. The witty, "what the fuck"-laden script written by Karen Walton and director John Fawcett makes the link seem plausible. This authenticity gives the film a satirical edge that most horror entries seem to lack, and the fact that it comes from a female perceptive only adds to the realism. Sure, all the talk of syrupy discharges and heavy flow could have probably been learned from any medical textbook, but there was something different about the way womanly issues were discussed in this film. And hence, genuine moments of a comedic nature were able to flow, uh, I mean, cascade in a self-generated manner. Menstruation aside, the film is essentially about Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins), teenage sisters with a levelheaded obsession with death (okay, it wasn't that levelheaded). Outsiders at their local high school, the inseparable twosome plan on committing suicide in the near future. However, this not-so lofty goal gets postponed when Ginger starts growing hair in weird places, bleeding vaginally, and ends up sprouting a cute little tail after she's attacked in the woods by a mysterious creature with a circumcised dick. A concerned Brigitte employs the help of Sam (Kris Lemche), a horticulturist/drug dealer, and tries her best to keep her sister's affliction hidden from her classmates, teachers, and parents, all the while looking for a cure. Only problem is Ginger has developed a serious appetite for members of the opposite sex. Which, of course, hampers Brigitte's efforts to keep things quiet.

Rife with terrific scratch-based gore (some of the abrasions were beautiful) and bubbling over with dark humour, Ginger Snaps takes the period metaphor and runs wild with it. Whether they're perusing the tampon aisle or hanging out during field hockey practice, the Fitzgerald sisters make being a teenage girl seem like a blast.

The sisterly bond they share is the gooey essence of the film. In other words, take their relationship out of the movie and pretty much don't have one.

An absolutely sublime Emily Perkins plays Brigitte, the unsure Fitzgerald sister who gains confidence as the story progresses. When looking at filmed entertainment rarely do I see anyone that I can relate to (superheroes, noble-minded lawyers, offbeat serial killers, spies, rogue psychics are at the bottom of the list). Brigitte, on the other hand, is me. In fact, the act of watching Emily's performance was like staring into some sort of reflective surface. It's kinda creepy.

Now, I may not share her obsession with mutilation, animal skull jewelry, and all things bloodstained, but the disaffected teen angst, layered black clothing, awkward mannerisms, and anti-social disposition all rang true for me. Take the scene where she emerges from the garage carrying an extension chord, a blow torch, and a can of gas, the look she throws the kids playing street hockey is the kind of look I would describe at length in the pages of my adolescent diary (the pink and teal one adorned with Punky Brewster stickers).

On the opposite side of the teen angst spectrum, the gorgeous Katharine Isabelle plays Ginger with a tawdry self-assurance (tighter outfits and more makeup). Gliding down the hallway, overflowing with newfound confidence, she exudes an animalistic quality that just screams mattress maniac. Possessing the better posture, Katharine may get to ham it up more than her frumpish sister, and garner more attention from the hottie pundits, but I thought she did a tremendous job of grounding her character when things started get out of control.

It should be said that a non-poker playing Mimi Rogers is wonderful as Ginger and Brigitte's clueless mother. The scenes where she tries to explain sex and boys to the girls were hilarious. Plus, I liked that she was into gardening.

Whenever I hear the question: "What is your favourite opening titles sequence?" I always blurt out, without a hint of hesitation, Ginger Snaps. It's true, I have a major soft spot for the Wang Chung fueled resplendance that is the one for To Live and Die in L.A. But I have to say, nothing comes close to topping the image of the Fitzgerald sisters simulating a dizzying array of household and backyard suicides. I mean, not only are the credits disturbing, but they're also strangely erotic. Striped tights, picket fences, exposed undergarments, lawnmowers, leg braces, poison tea parties, unconfined entrails... Need I say more? In fact, there's more creativity in this three minute sequence than the entirety of some films.

video uploaded by skyfire18


  1. the time, but it's grown the more I've thought about it. Really an accomplishment. Rarely do you get such a unique film in such a traditional genre.

  2. Oops...somehow the first part got deleted.

    Anyhow, I said I really liked it. I didn't like it as much right afterwards, I liked it, but over time it grew.

  3. It's also unique in that it has no CGI and the word "werewolf" isn't used once.

  4. I just watched this three days ago. I'd heard that this was the movie to watch if you like modern horror flicks and I'd agree. Damnit, I love the Canadians. Yum-Yum's right about the CGI and the word "werewolf" which makes Ginger Snaps even cooler.

  5. Loving Canadians is one of my favourite past times. (If you doubt me, check out the 'u' I used in favorite.)