Back in 2000, a transformation took place in the werewolf genre. But Ginger Snaps‘ main draw was not the change from human to werewolf; it was the way that it depicted the coming-of-age tale of its protagonists, two girls on the edge of puberty attempting to fight their way through the hells of high school. That a werewolf just happens to come along and bite Ginger throws a wrench in the works that the girls have to face; still, the film’s strengths are thanks to director John Fawcett, who chooses to focus on the girls themselves rather than the illness that threatens to overtake them.
Both Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are strange girls. As sisters, they have a special bond to each other, but to everyone else they are just the freak loners who don’t comb their hair. Brigitte, being the younger of the two, tends to follow Ginger’s lead; when Ginger begins to start her menstrual cycle, Brigitte kind of gets the sense that she’s being left behind. But it doesn’t help that one night Ginger’s bitten by a giant wolf, one that leaves a fast-healing wound that grows hair.
That sense of change is evident throughout Ginger Snaps – the late fall-early winter setting, the focus on the female menstrual cycle as a transformative state – and Fawcett runs with the coming-of-age story. But it helps to have Karen Walton’s script paving the way, a story that does not see all teenage women as damsels waiting for boys to save them. In fact, much of Ginger Snaps is about Brigitte figuring out how to live without help at all, leaving Ginger and her parents behind because they just don’t understand what’s going on.
In this way, Fawcett and Walton craft a story around Brigitte instead of Ginger. The werewolf idea is present and often violently rears its head, but for much of the film, Fawcett follows Brigitte as she uncovers how to save her sister. It’s Brigitte who is constantly cleaning up messes, and by the end of the film it is Brigitte who learns how to overcome the shadow of her sister.
There are a multitude of themes throughout Ginger Snaps, making it a much more exciting film than one that is solely focused on werewolf transformations. Feminism creeps up here and there, although not the sort of biting critique of men in society that can enrage. It is more a criticism of women in culture, of how people see them. Like the bodily changes Ginger goes through to become a werewolf, menstruation is also commonly seen as monstrous, the sort of thing that should not be discussed outside a woman’s private bathroom. Fawcett and Walton pull in a clever discussion that uses werewolves as metaphor.
Both Isabelle and Perkins are excellent in their roles (and beautiful in real life – look at the transformation!). They are the other reason why Ginger Snaps is so successful; the sardonic remarks and the morbid fascinations that the girls have are things that most horror fans can relate to.
It is not surprising that Ginger Snaps has become the cult film that it is. It’s wide-reaching metaphor and likable cast elevate the movie above other werewolf flicks, and the tendency to pair buckets of blood with the dark humor of the girls is something that keeps the film moving throughout its nearly two-hour runtime. And any movie that can manage to fit a Glassjaw song into its soundtrack is well worth your time. Revisiting Ginger Snaps, one can’t help but admire how Fawcett and Walton were able to depict transformations that are more interesting than werewolves.
Scream Factory Blu-Ray features:
Scream Factory has included a number of awesome special features on this disc, the most important of which is the hour-long interview documentary with cast, crew, and director John Fawcett with writer Karen Walton. “Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth, and Fur” is an in-depth look at the making of the film, and one you shouldn’t pass up.
Also special for this SF disc is a discussion panel called “Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror”, led by Kristy Jett. The girls take us through different films that explore female puberty, most of them not in a pretty light, and then tie it all in with Ginger Snaps, however loosely.
Also included are three different deleted scenes features – one is scenes alone, one features commentary from John Fawcett, and the other has commentary from Karen Walton. A couple of short featurettes round the disc out, giving us a fantastic look at the making of Ginger Snaps for a total run time of over two hours.