PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

'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.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.