31 Screams in October, #10: Ginger Snaps (2000)

Posted: October 11, 2014 in Movie Review
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Ginger Snaps (2000)

Director: John Fawcett

Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers

Puberty… it’s unavoidable. Everyone must go through it eventually; it’s just a question of when. With it comes the basic animal instincts inside each one of us, with an emphasis on the ones having to do with choosing mates and, to a lesser extent, with taking our roles in the hunter/prey dynamic (also known as bully/victim). But the cold hard fact about the ascension to adulthood is that it’s harder on women than it is on men. Us guys don’t have to count the days of a calendar until we’re faced with mood swings and bleeding from that most sensitive part of our body. I don’t envy my female counterparts at all in that department, though I sympathize with anyone whose body works against them every now and then.

Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and her older sister, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) are death-obsessed high school students in an unnamed Canadian town. Ginger is highly protective of her sister, who is only a year younger than she. That means that anyone, be they boy or girl, is likely to have problems should they injure, threaten or otherwise annoy Brigitte. The two are outsiders, often finding themselves criticizing the popular social cliques almost as much as they in turn are ridiculed by those same rich kids. Because this movie was released just as I, myself, was closing out my own four-year high school term, many of the fashions, the slang terminology, and the fact that you still had to use a Polaroid camera if you wanted to take an instantly-developed photograph are all familiar in a time-warp sort of way.

One night, the thing responsible for the dismemberment of several neighborhood dogs attacks Ginger while she and her sister are out hoping to make the queen bitch of their school think her beloved pet is dead (which, they find out, it already is). In a panic, Brigitte leads her wounded sister back home, with the animal in chase. The girls are saved when the beast has a chance encounter with the front bumper of the van belonging to the town’s resident young drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche). Seeing the blood all over his windshield, Sam is understandably freaked out, although careful examination of the animal’s remains reveals a curious oddity: a human circumcised penis.

Brigitte has her own problems, first wondering if her sister is going to survive the next few minutes, and then in shock when Ginger’s wounds start healing at an accelerated rate. She’s even more creeped out later on when those wounds start sprouting hairs. Ginger’s not happy about it either, as a hairy body is not socially acceptable for women. The tail growing from her backside would likely raise a lot of questions, as well. They’re a bit stuck, though, because they know there’s only so much information they can give out to anyone before they’ll start to sound crazy. When they half-heartedly explain the symptoms to the school nurse, Ginger’s situation is mistaken for the onset of her period. The only real help they get from anyone is from Sam, who has a theory regarding lycanthropes, a.k.a. werewolves. While he and Brigette are trying to find a cure, Brigette is also struggling to keep her sister from giving into the urge to kill, and she’s slowly losing that battle.

“Ginger Snaps” is by no means the first horror movie to tie the menstruation cycle to the female lead obtaining some sort of supernatural ability, but it may be the first one to do it with the werewolf subgenre, and in such a direct and specific manner. Ginger has at least two ways in which she can spread her lycanthropy to others, by the traditional method of causing wounds but not killing the victim (as was done to her), or by having unprotected sex with them, thereby likening the parasitic virus to a sexually-transmitted disease.

A few traditions associated with these stories are absent from this film. The full moon doesn’t have to be present in order for a werewolf to change. The conventional method of killing a werewolf, silver, is also proven to be unnecessary. Werewolves here are not special. They die just as easily as any other mammal does. None of this bothers me at all, and that’s because I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of werewolf movies. I don’t care for “The Howling” or “An American Werewolf in London,” and even the original “Wolf Man” doesn’t move me all that much. Generally, a movie has to include vampires as the werewolves’ adversaries (“Underworld,” for example) for me to develop an interest. With “Ginger Snaps,” it’s the fresh approach to the old conventions and my emotional connection to late 90’s/early 00’s high school combined with the realistic sisterly bond provided by actresses Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins that make this one so enjoyable.


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