Review: Ginger Snaps

Ginger snaps. Delicious treats constructed from ginger-flavoured biscuity-stuff rolled into a cigar, and pumped full of brandy cream. The cigars can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for several months, so they’re basically available whenever you want to devour them. Ginger Snaps (the film) tells the story of the Fitzgerald girls, who are far less interested in your satisfaction.

Ginger Fitzgerald (Katherine Isabelle) and her sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) hate anyone acting sweet, and Ginger’s going to do most of the devouring in this feature length film directed by John Fawcett. We meet the pair as they photograph their own carnivalesque faked deaths for a school assignment. Like Canadian nu-metal Francesca Woodmans, they use visual and physical props to to explore their own mortality and locate their own fate. It’s a theme that’s maintained throughout the film in a narrative sense, but the inspired visual approach does taper somewhat. Had it been sustained, it may have drawn parallels with the style of Floria Sigismondi and her rich, twisted, brutal horror palettes. However, the tragedy of two high school shootings (including Columbine) around the time of filming are said to have reduced the film’s allocated funding, perhaps impacting the photography budget.

During one of their self-appointed adventures (investigating a spate of gruesome neighbourhood pet murders), Ginger realises her first period has arrived. Minutes later she’s mauled by a werewolf. Hilariously, the sisters aren’t sure which violation is worse. Metaphorically, we aren’t necessarily sure which event is responsible for each subsequent shift in her personality. As Ginger explains, ‘I’ve got this ache, and I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.’  In her new and evolving post-menstrual and post-bitten body, Ginger becomes a hybrid monstrous feminine prototype: mixture of witch and werewolf – maybe even part-vampire. But how will the ‘new’ Ginger fit in with her family, school, or neighbourhood, when she already felt like an outsider? When she hides the signs of change at first, it’s at once comedic and tragic; when she chooses to reveal specific signs of change, it’s triumphant.

It’s fun seeing the werewolf horror genre flipped on its head with an annoyed teenage girl at the helm. Years before Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl) faked her death and slashed her ex mid-coitus, and Jennifer Check (Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body) started devouring her high school’s male population, Ginger had her own qualms about the ‘Cool Girl’ trope: ‘No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease or the virgin next door.’ While she’s exploring her newfound abilities, Canada’s most loyal sister (Brigitte) plays Girl Detective and searches for a cure for Ginger’s rapid and voracious monstrous evolution. Her main ally? Cute drug dealer Sam (Kris Lemche), who’s recently rejected the school’s head cheerleader (one of the Fitzgeralds’ favourite enemies) and has become genuinely interested in ‘helping’ Brigitte (who is grossed out by her own allure). Side note: keep your eye on the hilarious Mimi Rogers who cameos as Mama Fitzgerald.

Decisions to utilise traditional prosthetics and makeup ultimately look somewhat cheap and dated, but not as disappointing as the FX in the Twilight franchise. Anyway, we’re here for the fun of the journey, not the postcards. Fans of Carrie, The Exorcist, and The Craft will find this film thought-provoking, albeit less visually masterful than its feminist forebears. It’s a depiction of a neighbourhood tilted sideways, smeared with blood and dark with humour; the soft out-of-focus visuals of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides are nowhere to be seen. If you like your teen malaise blood-covered and rare, Ginger’s your girl.


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