Director: John Fawcett
Writer: Karen Walton
Available on Shudder, Amazon.
Ginger Snaps might be the number one film recommended when one talks werewolves. It’s missing a lot of the standards we came to expect with gory transformations like An American Werewolf in London, and the bland romance of The Wolfman, but that was very much the point. Writer Walton had to be convinced by Fawcett to do the film, but once she was on board, the two created a completely unique story of metamorphosis.
The Horror genre is not known for its deep characterizations or ability to reinvent itself, but it’s a lucky thing she did decide to take the plunge: Ginger Snaps defined werewolf movies for a generations of film goers and helped launch an era of introspective and self-aware horror we’re still in the middle of.
In place of racially charged Romani depictions and a fear of the foreign unknown, Walton derived horror from the all too mundane reality of small town Americana. The kids deal with high school politics, low level drug dealing, and cute, age-inappropriate boys. It’s a universe that devours young girls, but Ginger Snaps is about girls biting back.
Sisters Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and the titular Ginger (Katharina Isabelle) are two suburban goths with a death pact. They share a mutual fascination with death in the most gruesome mode, but the bonds of their childhood friendship are tested and strained to the maximum when Ginger suddenly gets her period. This coincides with some werewolf violence and eventually the sisters are fighting like cats and dogs.
The violence of the film is a conversation on consent, sexuality, coming of age, and so many other things, but it was also one of its primary challenges. While the movie is, at it’s core, a fantastically entertaining Horror movie, contemporary challenges for it gave the story and even the special effects new meaning.
While attempting to cast for it, Canadian casting directors were reticent to touch such a fowl-mouthed, gory story about young girls. When one was found who was up to the challenge, the Columbine shooting in the United States placed the violence of teen culture under new scrutiny. The media scrutiny that followed possibly increased interest in the film itself. The two leads who were chosen ended up having enough in common to have been real-life sisters: they had been born in the same hospital, attended the same schools, worked through the same agency, and even auditioned on the same day.
To complete the central family of Ginger Snaps, Mimi Rogers snapped at the chance to play their well-meaning, but naive mother. Its black humor attracted her, which was something a little bit new for her after a career that’s spanned a variety of genre appearances. Pamela is a unique character in a teen-centric story that traditionally may have dismissed parents outright… but any more information would spoil this film’s narrative twists and extremely smart conclusion.
After this, watch: Teeth (2007), The Craft (1996), Knives and Skin (2019)