Saturday, June 7, 2008

#38: Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)

A film about teen angst, werewolves, and the menstrual cycle, Ginger Snaps is a mostly successful attempt to bring something new to the werewolf subgenre. It's dark, it's funny, the acting is strong, the teenagers actually look like teenagers, and the final image even manages to create some poetic resonance. Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle are nicely cast as the Fitzgerald sisters, Brigitte and Ginger. Perkins, especially, gets the outsider teen death-glare of contempt just right. Mimi Rogers, the only name cast member, does the strongest work I've ever seen from her as the sisters' misguided, out-of-touch mother. Her scenes with John Bourgeois, who plays her husband, are hilarious in their accuracy. Bourgeois creates a lot with a little, his bemused and awkward expressions and quiet mutterings creating a rich portrait of a guy who is uncomfortable having only daughters but who still manages to silently understand them better than his Peggy Hill-esque wife.
The Fitzgerald sisters are social outcasts in their small town, and they spend every moment together being morbid and sarcastic and hating everything. Ginger is sixteen and Brigitte is fifteen, though the latter skipped a grade and they have the same classes. Despite their age, they don't have their periods yet, and they've made a pact to either commit suicide together or run away from their hometown by the time both have reached age sixteen. Also, something is killing and mutilating dogs in the neighborhood. To her horror, Ginger finally gets her period, which seems to attract the creature that is killing the dogs. The thing bites her, and her body's transformation into an adult woman and a werewolf occurs simultaneously, causing a rift between the once-inseparable sisters. Ginger Snaps spends the rest of its running time embracing the true-life cliches of teenage life (plus werewolves) while avoiding most of the cliches of the generic horror film.

This Canadian independent film does a lot with its limited budget. Sometimes the dialogue sounds written by an adult rather than spoken by a teenager, the word "fuck" is spoken so many times that it starts to get a little silly, the school seems to have only 20 students and two faculty members -- a janitor and a guidance counselor who also doubles as the only teacher -- and Perkins, who was sporting a Sinead O'Connor look at the time, is clearly wearing a wig. (It's a good wig, though.) However, the movie does everything else right. It's nice to see a horror movie with girls who aren't just running away and screaming, and the comparison between menstruation and wolfing out is pretty funny. I hate the stereotypical distinctions between "chick flicks" and "guy movies." I think most audiences want to see something good. Guys sometimes respond to quality romances like Say Anything and girls sometimes like to see shit blow up real good. It's the job of the media to keep us in tightly defined and separate niches, however, so the corporations that own them can have an easier time selling us stuff. Ginger Snaps provides an alternative to the vapid vacuousness of so many female characters in genre films, and I'm glad to see a movie carried by two interesting girls.

For some reason, there is a sequel, as well as a prequel set in the 1800s. Zuh?


Plop Blop said...

I was always curious about this one. Now I have a good excuses to check it out. You're sort of like those kids at the end of Reading Rainbow episodes, but with horror movies. "But you don't have to take my word for it."

Spacebeer said...

I think they should show this movie instead of Julie's Story to fourth grade girls in health class....