'Ginger Snaps' Is Freshly Female-Centric Horror

Watching the movie now, it seems to anticipate its own cult.

Ginger Snaps

Director: John Fawcett
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss, Kris Lemche
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Studio: Lions Gate
US Release Date: 2014-07-22

When John Fawcett and Karen Walton's Ginger Snaps was released in 2001, the horror movie landscape was not particularly promising. A few years earlier, Scream had ushered in a slasher revival, which quickly exhausted itself. The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project helped keep horror filmmaking alive, but from their success studios mostly absorbed wrongheaded lessons like: have a twist ending, or: make a Blair Witch sequel. The market seemed so uninterested in original horror movies that Ginger Snaps never actually scored a proper theatrical release in the United States; the Canadian production premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2000, and came out in Canadian theaters the following spring.

But the film found a greater audience when it came to DVD, and is now a cult favorite, warranting an extras-packed Shout! Factory Blu-ray. Watching the movie now, it seems to anticipate its own cult, sometimes to its detriment. The premise certainly has camp potential: Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and her little sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are sisters in the same grade (Brigitte skipped ahead). Both are surly goths who disdain other teenagers and have only each other—until Ginger is attacked by a mysterious creature and starts exhibiting strange symptoms of both adolescence (the period she's been willing away seems to finally show up) and werewolfism.

For the most part, Ginger Snaps takes its characters seriously. Fawcett (director) and Walton (screenwriter) pay a lot of attention to the relationship between Ginger and Brigitte, and even cartoonier supporting characters have some humanity to them, particularly their relentlessly upbeat mother (Mimi Rogers), who the movie clearly paints as loving and well-intentioned within her bouts of cluelessness. But sometimes the filmmaking tells another, sillier story: low angles and dramatic zooms that hint at a more Sam Raimi-ish take on the material, and some of Walton's dialogue toys with Heathers-ish slanginess (sometimes it lands closer to Degrassi territory, although maybe that's just the Canadian accents).

Some of this stuff is fun, and probably necessary to smuggle in the movie's more serious ideas. The clashing tones are exactly the kind of weirdness the horror genre can offer more easily than more "normal" comedies or dramas; as it happens, though, the shifts of Ginger Snaps also contribute to feelings of scattered repetition. Almost thirty minutes' worth of deleted scenes on the Blu-ray drive home the feeling that the filmmakers had a lot they wanted to cover, and didn't always find the room for it all.

The movie is thematically overstuffed, too. At first, the movie positions Ginger as particularly attached to the theatrical, death-obsessed promises the girls have made to each other since childhood (on suicide: "It's so us!"), while Brigitte appears more cautious. After she gets bitten, though, the hormone-related metaphor re-orients Ginger as the one getting ready to move on from childhood without Brigitte. Then, as Ginger runs wilder, Brigitte takes the more adult role, trying to control her sister; while Ginger grows angry that they're not experiencing these changes together, Brigitte is positioned as both more and less mature. Even the lycanthropy metaphor shifts: initially, it stands in for menstruation, but later is used to recall sexually transmitted diseases, with a stricken boy panicking about what Ginger "gave" him.

All of this follows emotionally more than logically, sold by the idea that the sisterly relationship is volatile and complicated, and by the film's lead performances, particularly Katharine Isabelle, who transcends any self-consciousness by making Ginger so funny, sad, and frightening, sometimes within the same scene. Perkins, who spends her early scenes wearing a perpetually scornful frown, also does strong work as a girl who must come out of her shell, if only to attempt to save herself and her beastly sister.

Ginger Snaps anticipates a series of horror movies that followed it (coincidentally or not) and also focused on the female experience: Lucky McKee's May; Teeth; and the underappreciated Jennifer's Body could screened alongside it for a woman-centric horror film festival. Appropriately, one of the new disc's best extras is a thirty-minute panel on women in horror, only featuring female participants who don't have a direct connection to the filmmakers. This discussion provides outside context so often missing even from well-assembled discs, especially for newer movies where the creators are still available to talk about them.

The filmmakers have plenty to say, too: there are solo commentaries from both Fawcett and Walton, and while they're complimentary about their creative relationship (an hour-long behind-the-scenes feature explains that Fawcett had the general idea of doing a female werewolf movie, which he took to Walton, who ran with the premise), it might have been more interesting to hear them discuss the movie together on a single track, rather than separate, isolated discussions.

Fawcett and Walton both later worked on the Canadian TV series Orphan Black; offbeat genre fare is clearly a lingering interest (though Fawcett only executive-produced the Snaps direct-to-video sequel and prequel). If there's a problem with revisiting Ginger Snaps, it's the realization that studios are more likely to hire a woman for an earnestly clumsy remake of Carrie than produce a horror movie that offers a fresh and female-centric point of view. Fourteen years on, Ginger Snaps shows a lot of promise, the kind that regrettably few mainstream horror movies have much interest in keeping.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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