It’s time to break out the birthday hats, red dye #4 and corn syrup y’all, because beloved werewolf film Ginger Snaps turns the tender age of 17 today.
After a brief round at a couple of film festivals (namely the Toronto International and Los Angeles Film Festivals), Ginger Snaps was officially released theatrically on May 11, 2001 in Canada. At 17 years old, the film itself is around the same age as the two protagonists, the titular Ginger and her sister Brigitte. And in the spirit of the season, I’d like to issue Ginger Snaps an official Report Card evaluating its growth and development in all the important subjects. So hang on to your graduation caps and teen angst, here are the final grades…
The title may only mention one of them, but the focus here is pretty evenly split between Ginger and Brigitte. Played by Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins, respectively, the two exhibit a very believable sisterly chemistry. From the beginning of the film, Ginger is already established as the more “conventionally attractive” of the two. Whereas Brigitte is the Emo Hunchback of Bailey Downs, with a much more unpleasant demeanor.
Nevertheless, the two are inseparable, a fact displayed wonderfully by Isabelle’s and Perkins’ performances. There’s an easy familiarity with the way they talk the each other, and a hint of resentment inherent in any sibling relationship. For every blood pact there’s a snide comment.
When things get “hairy” (heh) later in the film and Ginger undergoes some serious changes, Isabelle proves more than up to the task of transforming Ginger from a bitter outcast to a confident siren of male attention. She’s more than adept at the inevitable “slow-motion strut down the hallway” scene that’s so prominent in teen films.
Brigitte‘s lack of physical transformation shouldn’t let Perkins’ performance go under the radar, however. While her wardrobe and demeanor don’t change, we still see an impressive range of emotion from her. Brigitte is very much co-dependent when it comes to her sister. Ginger is her rock and we see the panic in Perkins’ eyes when she realizes she’s losing her.
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Less impressive are the supporting performers, who all seem to be in a slightly campier film than those two. I won’t count it against their grade, however, as this is an inherently campy film and it’s arguable that they simply met expectations. Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins just happened to exceed them.
Final Grade: A-
Art (Special Effects)
In the film’s cold open, we are introduced to unimportant characters we never return to (in typical horror fashion). A woman doing some yard work, and her toddler son playing in the sandbox nearby. The smiley mother walks over to her son and ominous music swells. Instantly we know we’re about to get our first taste of gore. Sure enough, turns out little junior is playing with the foot of the family dog. And just feet away is where the real carnage is. The poor pup has been totally disemboweled by an unknown animal of some sort, with intestines and blood all over the dog house and strewn across the lawn.
Take my evaluations in this subject with a grain of salt, as I don’t know much about special effects. But the bloody intestines seemed pretty well executed to me, with the size and slime-factor seemingly realistic (not that I would know…). The severed foot left a little something to be desired, as the protruding bone seemed like something out of a cartoon.
And of course we have the werewolf. One thing about that is Ginger doesn’t just get bitten and suddenly become a full-blown werewolf. The transformation is rather leisurely. First it’s the aforementioned “hotness,” then the cuts she got from the beast start sprouting some fur (the film’s low budget rears its ugly head here), and then her face shows the first signs of the real physical transformation.
Her hair goes platinum, and her forehead/eye area morphs into a menacing frown. In all seriousness she looks like Spike and Drusilla‘s love child (any Buffy fans in the house?), and I don’t hate it. As far as the final werewolf, it’s made of a rubber (or latex?) suit and doesn’t look horrible, but also doesn’t look the best. The director wanted a hairless creature, according to Make Up Artist Paul Jones in the blu-ray’s special features, but he ended up having to add some fur around the neck to hide the zipper so the stunt actor could easily take it off. The end result looks a little amateurish, especially with the werewolf’s movements, considering it was embodied by an actual human, it still managed to look animatronic. It looks kinda like if someone shaved their dog and then slathered him in oil and he’s pissed about it.
Final Grade: C
Photography (Direction and Cinematography)
The film looks relatively decent for a low budget indie horror. Mind you, it doesn’t look great, but it’s certainly serviceable. The lighting is mostly on point especially during the more horror-y scenes where Ginger gets initially attacked by the creature, and toward the end when she’s turned into a creature herself and is stalking darkened hallways.
As far as camera work, being a campy creature feature, dutch angles are practically inevitable. For the uninitiated, a “dutch angle” is any time the camera is tilted, usually to achieve an off-kilter look. There’s a reason that type of shot is synonymous with films like this, and that’s because they tend to elicit the type of exaggerated emotion common in B-movies. So while I personally don’t like them, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it’s another case of them meeting expectations.
Final Grade: B
This is where an even bigger similarity to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is apparent. It takes a natural part of teenage life, in this case menstruation, and turns it into a horror-friendly metaphor. “They don’t call it the curse for nothing,” reads the tagline.
As a male, I know nothing about this curse (the only thing I’m “cursed” with is a cute smile and killer charm *wink*), but I can’t imagine likening it to the unpleasantness of a werewolf is very far off base.
The arrival of Ginger‘s period is the catalyst of the story. It actually happens just minutes before she’s attacked by the creature, which is perhaps a little on-the-nose but I’ll let it slide. It’s what sets in motion the growing distance between her and Brigitte. “Just say you wont go average on me,” Brigitte worriedly spouts to her sister, when she learns of this new feminine development.
The bond of sisterhood is the overarching theme, as this transformation Ginger is going through causes a rift in their relationship and their connection. “We’re almost not even related anymore,” Ginger says at one point late in the film, the evilness of the werewolf curse further wedging that gap between them.
It’s notable that there’s no boyfriend in the picture here. Not only would it simply not fit the story at all, it would distract from the real narrative and real relationship at play, that of Ginger and Brigitte. This is their story, and without spoiling anything, the lengths Brigitte goes to in order to save Ginger are admirable and really quite sweet. By the end, this is actually a pretty touching story about the love these girls have for each other.
Final Grade: A
Ginger Snaps has earned a Metascore of 70, an IMDb score of 6.8/10, a Letterboxd average of 3.5/5, and an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. What do you all think – Did I give it fair grades? Where does it rank on your list of werewolf films? Let us know in the comments and sound off in our Horror Group on Facebook!