Director: John Fawcett
Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Mimi Rogers, and Kris Lemche
Running time: 108 min
A thick, syrupy, voluminous discharge is not uncommon: Well, obviously, there’s a beast in Bailey Downs. It’s climbing in your backyards and snatchin’ your doggies up … and tearing them to fucking pieces, as Ginger would say. Ginger, if you were wondering, is Ginger Fitzgerald, an anti-social almost-sixteen year-old girl from Bailey Downs, a late bloomer, and the idol of her just-turned-fifteen year old sister Bridgette. Together, they do lots of outcasty things, like smoking, cursing at the dinner table, disgusting and disturbing their teacher with a slide show of pictures of gore and death that they posed for as a class project, and sharing snarky remarks about their “standard cum-buckety date bait” classmates while no one is listening.
When one of cum-buckety Trina Sinclair’s friends overhears Bridgette’s insults and rats her out to Trina, the youngest of the Fitz sisters graduates from simple weirdo to target. Trina bumrushes her on the field hockey, uh, field, and knocks her right on top of the latest doggy to fall victim to (read: get torn to fucking pieces by) the Beast of Bailey Downs. Ginger jumps forward to defend her little sis, but her bravery starts to falter when Trina doesn’t back down. Desperate to save face with the sister that looks up to her, Ging starts talking about revenge and promising Bridgette that they’ll get Trina back. They settle on a plan to kidnap Trina’s dog and use their gore know-how to make him look like the Beast got him.
That night, on the way to Trina’s house, psyched up to do their crime, they run across yet another dead dog. (Any person in that town still letting their dogs out, at this point, deserves to be euthanized.) This one is still warm. FREE PROP! They start to pick it up, the perfect addition to their little revenge plot, but a leg comes off and the thing falls and splats all over Ginger’s leg. Except… Oh no! That’s not doggy blood, Ging is a woman now!
Disgusted and, in Ginger’s case obviously freaked, they turn to go home, but that kill was warm. Hot, actually. Sticking around after they found it was so dumb, I mean, really dumb, for real, because The Beast is not far away, and the scent of Ginger’s fresh flow makes her a target for the creature. Ginger is snatched up and dragged her off, mauled and savaged offscreen as Bridgette looks frantically for her. And when The Beast shows its face, Bridgette shows a little more spine than Ging, and doesn’t back down. She batters it with her camera, grabs Ginger, and the girls haul ass. The Beast keeps after them, but is struck by a passing van, splattering the thing all over the everywhere. Back home, Ging begs Bridgette not to tell anyone and, in fact, her wounds are healing. She seems as if she’ll be ok, but as the days progress and Ginger’s behavior starts to change, as she gets more aggressive and shows an interest in boys, as the sisters grow further apart (and their mother revels in their burgeoning womanhood), Bridgette, worried and hurt, begins to think there may be more than one “curse” at work. Run and tell THAT!
No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease, or the virgin next door: Largely overlooked at its debut, Ginger Snaps made up for that false start by gathering a strong cult following (and also a sequel and a prequel) over the last decade, being widely praised for being both smart and nasty, as well as genuinely good–albeit imperfect–horror.
Fisty: I came super late to the Ginger Snaps bandwagon, only seeing it for the first time last year. Not for any particular reason; I saw it pop up in peoples’ Horror folders when I was er, “acquiring” my collection of movie files, but never bothered with it. Shoots, even Eli had seen it before me. Is this the sort of thing that makes me lose my horror cred? Should I not be admitting this? At PB&G, we have a vague policy of candor when it suits us, and I will not deviate from that equivocal convention we’ve worked somewhat hard to establish!
Bill: It’s about goddamn time! Why do you hate Canada so much?
Fisty: I just do, okay? Why do you love it? And why do you love Ginger Snaps?
Bill: Why do I love Canada? Degrassi. Why do I love Ginger Snaps? Hmmm. Why do I love Ginger Snaps? Do I even LOVE Ginger Snaps? I mean, it does have its flaws. The bellybutton piercing scene is a little over the top. It’s just a bellybutton, calm down. But it was made in 2000 when that wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so I can forgive them that. Ginger’s slow motion walk down the school hallway with all the guys turning to watch her is pretty cheesy. I was never a fan of that scene, but, in its defense, I would turn and watch Ginger stroll by in slow-mo if I had the chance, so I can forgive that. There’s a few lines that don’t come off too well in the film, sound false, silly, but I’ll just assume they didn’t have the budget to keep shooting until they got it just right. That lack of budget is probably also why the final werewolf looks kind of unfinished. It’s not too bad, but it is kind of … bald. Jesse Moss, who plays Jason in the movie, is pretty bad, too. More so in some scenes, like the syringe scene, than others. Of course, he only stands out as being so bad, because Mimi Rogers and Emily Perkins are so good. So, it’s a flawed film, but I forgive most of its shortcomings and, yes, I do in fact love it. Enough so that I just had to order the Canadian DVD instead of the American version, just to get more extras. Why? Now, Fisty, I will tell you what love is made of.
Ginger, sexy teen Ginger, is laying in her bed on her tummy. She’s sleeping in her sexy Canadian panties. Bridgette slowly creeps up on her, softly takes hold of the elastic of her hot teen sister’s panties and slowly pulls them down, revealing A WAGGING FUCKING PUPPYDOG TAIL! Hot, teenage, Canadian, pantybutt with a tail! Man, I have had a thing for werewolf girls since Marsha Quist’s naked firelight sex/transformation scene from The Howling kickstarted my erotic imagination when I was but a young boy. With her claws, the supernumerary nipples on display later in the film and that goddamn tail, Ginger is like the Marsha Quist of Degrassi High. That is why I fucking love Ginger Snaps.
Fisty: And I guess that explains why you love me, too, supernumerary nipple and all.
Maybe I’m a jerk, but I pretty much rolled my eyes at both Ginger and Brigitte right at the start–and I would’ve thought they were ‘tards back in high school, too. Not because they looked different or were morbid (I was plenty of that myself), but because I would have thought them pretentious and laughable in their rampant desire to be SO DARK. Shit, the girl in the Diary Of a High School Death Rocker was less affected. Maybe.
BUT–nothing wrong with that!. The fact that I initially scoffed at them (“Poseurs!”)–and I never really did get to like Ginger, but in fairness, it’s Brigitte’s story–makes it that much more natural.
Emily Perkins and Mimi Rogers OWN this movie; without them, it would be a pallid, flaccid thing. Okay, that’s a little harsh, but they are just SO GOOD. Rogers especially; if Ginger Snaps were made today, she’d be a Mormon mommy-blogger, CriCut, DSLR, trips to JoAnn’s and all. Both shes are amazing, Pamela Fitzgerald the character, a fiercely protective cookiecutter suburbanite, and Mimi Rogers the actress, who so finely brings Pamela to life.
It does have its flaws, though. Moss isn’t terribly convincing, and all the chiaroscuro promise of the first half peters out in the second as Fawcett just starts hitting genre numbers, finally devolving to an overlong and silly chase finale. Even so, it is head and shoulders (and nipples) above the majority of horror teen fare. (Why are teen-oriented horror movies so often inferior?) Despite that, the finely articulated main characters, deep perceptiveness of both female adolescence and sibling relations, and of course the rarely forced trenchant wit put Ginger Snapsat the top of the teen horror game. (I just said “teen horror” three times; if I say it twice more, will SOMEONE jump out of the mirror and kill me?)
Bill: As long as it isn’t Stephenie Meyer…
I can’t fault the girls too much for being soooo “nonconformist”, since I was nearly as bad as they were at one point, though I was a little younger than them at the time. I had my phase where I only wore black and constantly had my hair in my eyes, drew demons on all my notebooks, hissed if I touched a bible, and one or twice yammered on about death and all the horrible ways of dying, like Trash from Return of the Living Dead.
Fisty: I can’t hear you over the sound of my own laughter.
Bill: Yeah, yeah… Thankfully, that was just a phase. Mostly. I say that while wearing a black t-shirt with zombies on it and looking at the skull candle, wind-up chattery fangs, and skull & bats snowglobe that decorate my computer desk.
And, yes, this movie is all about Perkins and Rogers, as you say. Pamela makes me laugh in just about every scene the character appears in and she is so easy to cheer for later in the movie. She may seem kind of lame and embarrassing to those girls, but, man, she is one hell of a devoted mom. Totally a woman you’d want on your side. As a dude, however, I also have to give some respect to John Bourgeois as Henry Fitzgerald. He’s a bit of a non-entity in the movie, as the dad, but the few times you do see him, he’s perfect as the poor, lone male in the house, struggling to keep his appetite while everyone around him gets washed away in a flood of pussy-sludge talk. “Pam, we’re eating.” Kris Lemche’s character, Sam, is a nice surprise, too. Yes, he grows and sells a bit of pot, but the movie never tries to moralize about that, even showing his botanical know-how as an asset while trying to find a cure. There is some talk (by Trina) hinting at a darker side to his character, calling him a “cherry hound”, but that never seems to come out in his dealings with Bridgette. They make sure to show some porn at his place, as well, but never make him out to be a dirty, lecherous perv. He’s a smart, seemingly decent guy that just happens to make a little cash on the side selling weed to schoolkids and likes titties, but isn’t some misogynist, deviant, Date-Rapist Rick. Kind of nice to have a love-interest (or crush interest or whatever you’d call him in this movie) that isn’t bland and one-note or an obvious asshole, but rather a real character.
And yes, Fisty, you and your extra nip will always be my real world Marsha Quist.
Fisty: I especially appreciated how Sam wasn’t shoved down our throats as a love interest. It’s almost obligatory that there be some kind of romantic subplot whenever there are both men and women in a horror movie, and though there’s certainly tension, Bridgette and Sam are primarily concerned with rectifying the terrible situation she is in. And fuck that romance bullshit anyways. Granted, my mind was often on boys when I was fifteen, but if my sister were a werewolf, it would have been on that a lot more.
Bill: Yeah, it seemed like, rather than the straight love interest, he was used more to add an extra, adversarial facet to the girls’ relationship. Sure, Ginger was protective of Bridgette and that was a part of how she reacted to Sam, but she also seemed jealous. She was The Cool Sister, the older of the two and The Pretty One, so Sam’s continued focus on her little sister, instead of her, seemed to get under her skin, especially since Bridgette had been passing herself off as the one with “the curse”. It also seemed to bother her that Bridgette, who she says, “Always wanted to be me,” had a potential new hero in her life. It might have also been a way to dig into the weird dynamics that sometimes pop up between sisters when boys and sex become a part of their lives, where they find themselves competing for male attention.
Fisty: Sisterhood is weird, and the often unspoken rivalries and/or resentments can be very fierce. My younger sister and I (three year difference) are best friends, and we both idolized our older sisters (a decade plus older); the two of them (another three year difference) came close to literally murdering one another at times. Like, locked in the bathroom with the baby (me) while the other rages outside the door with a machete. Being a teenage girl kind of sucks for everyone involved.
Bill: Dude, did you grow up in The Overlook? Shine on, Fisty.
Another reason that I love Ginger Snaps, besides Ginger’s sexy motherfuckin’ tail, is the bitchin’ practical gore. Luckily, the movie came out just prior to the time that CGI really started snaking its way more prominently into the horror genre. So, its animatronics and camera tricks instead of digital transformations here. You’ll find no CGI splatters or sprays in this one. Corn syrup all the way! And for a teeny horror flick, there sure is a lot of it. In one scene that was, according to Fawcett, inspired by the game Silent Hill they actually smear blood all the way through a hallway and across the walls. There’re bloody panties, bloody drips, bloody toilets, bloody urinals, bloody vans, some very bloody deaths, bloody milk, tons of bloody dog corpses (not shown in this review, because awwww, poor doggies) … everything is bloody in this movie. Even the cake (very purposefully, says Fawcett) looks bloody! Given the parallels the movie makes between lycanthropy and menstruation, it would’ve been a total cop-out to see anything less, so I’m glad they didn’t wuss out. While, as I mentioned before, the final werewolf may’ve needed a little more work, all the rest is solid, whether the dismemberments are real or part of the girls’ school project.
And while I’m talking about the effects in the movie, let me make mention of the initial attack on Ginger. It goes by very fast in the movie. It’s easy to miss a lot of the detail in it. It’s worth rewinding and checking out again. When you examine it in detail, you can see that there’s a very sexual overtone to the violence. The werewolf nibbles at her neck, tears at her breast, strokes the inside of Ginger’s thighs, leaving claw marks. I almost thought the thing was going to reach up her skirt. At one point, it practically mounts her from behind, back arched. The beast resembled a dog trying to hump a leg. This is worth noting, because they continue to use the sex-as-violence-as-sex throughout the movie. It leads to one really clever scene, one of my favs in the movie, where you’re not quite sure if Ging has been out sexing or savaging. It’s not a new idea, but Ginger Snaps uses the allegory well, without pounding it into your skull in a ham-fisted Romero-like fashion.
Fisty, you want to wrap up?
Fisty: In a sec. We didn’t talk a whole lot about the body horror, puberty, and menstruation aspect, but I think a lot of that is pretty obvious and needs neither explication nor defense. For young women especially, menstruation represents the culmination of pubescence, and brings with it a whole lot of baggage in our culture. For a lot of girls it can still be pretty shocking no matter how intellectually prepared we feel we are for it via sex ed, “the talk,” or pop culture. (Shit, I was in denial about mine for two days the first time.) It’s good to see it represented in what really amounts to not a very melodramatic fashion, if you can see past the whole werewolf and murder thing. Poor Ginger–and Bridgette by proximity–speed through this trauma/transition without being able to process it, and their awkwardness as they try to deal is one of the strongest parts of the film.
The practical effects are pretty cool, shades of An American Werewolf in London, but those and the violent episodes lack any real artistic flair that would elevate them from rote setpieces to glamorous, baroque mayhem. That’s about all.
Regardless of its imperfections, Ginger Snaps is a welcome addition to the new canon of horror: a bright, intense, and most of all PERCEPTIVE look at the inner world of the adolescent girl, something found all too rarely in horror, where teenage girls are often relegated to roles of T&A or standard Final Girl with little deviation. It’s also pretty fuckin’ funny. With all the bloody ultraviolence naturally found therein, and a little lycanthropy thrown in for good measure, Fawcett, Perkins, Isabelle, and Rogers take us all along for the ride and oh, what fun it is.
Bill: And check out that tail!