Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Caution: Spoilers Galore, Eh?

Brigitte was out in the garage, rounding up supplies, when her neighbour began to shriek hysterically. “It got our dog! It got Baxter!”

“Baxter is fertilizer… And everyone is, like, staring.” Brigitte (Emily Perkins) explained a moment later to her sister, who was sitting hunched over on her bed, applying a vicious-looking knife to her pale, narrow wrist. Brigitte goes on about the attack, but she is speaking primarily to herself. Her sister, Ginger (Katherine Isabelle), has other preoccupations.

“Wrists are for girls,” The pretty redhead exclaims, falling backward onto her bed in a way most befitting a teenage angster. “I’m slitting my throat… You should definitely hang.”

The twisted sisters are close, perhaps too close. The younger, more rational Brigitte can’t seem to find her way out from under big sister Ginger’s shadow. They do everything together, and have no friends but for each other. They even share a room. They also share a secret death pact, first declared when the girls were small children: “out by 16 or dead in the scene, but together forever. United against life as we know it.”

The girls have put together a pictorial for an assignment they have been given in class on Life in Bailey Downs. The sisters produce a slideshow featuring shockingly gruesome images of the two of them cloaked in grim death, their lives used up in a variety of ways, ranging from profuse pill hunger to lawnmower entrapment. While their teacher, “sickened” by the display, requests that the girls report to the Guidance Office, one of the Jock Cocks in the class (Jesse Moss) requests to see the photographs of Ginger again. The eldest sister smiles coyly. Her powers of sexual attraction are new to her, and she is yet unsure how to use them.

The Fitzgerald sisters are in a class all their own, really. They have no desire to fit in with their schoolmates, choosing instead to huddle together as though in a protective stance against all possible intrusions. To say they’re not the sort of girls who get invited to a lot of parties would be a fierce understatement. “High school is just a mindless, breeder machine. Total hormonal toilet. I’d rather wait it all out in our room.”

Unfortunately, Brigitte’s wish simply cannot be. After a field hockey altercation with Miss Teen Popularity, Trina Sinclair (Danielle Hampton), the Fitzgerald sisters vow revenge. Or, rather Ginger vows revenge, while Brigitte merely goes along for the ride, as is her usual practice.

"You let idiots get away with fucking you up.
That’s why the Big Buddha made me; to stop them.”

The prank the girls have in store for Trina is diabolically mean: they take some of their leftover photo shoot gore, and go out on a late night mission to swap the bimbo’s dog for a pile of quivering “remains,” to make the snob think her poor pooch has been claimed by the Beast of Bailey Downs. On the way to Trina’s house, the girls stumble across something much better than their plastic bag of makeshift meat: a fresh, mangled kill, presumably that of another neighbourhood dog. Brigitte notes that the carcass is still warm.

Out of the surrounding trees comes a lightning-quick predator to snatch Ginger, screaming, out of sight. Calling desperately to her sister, Brigitte enters the woods to find Ginger pleading for her life while a giant wolf tears her to bloody shreds. Brigitte finds the courage to fend off the animal with a bludgeon, and the girls flee the woods together. The wolf creature is hot on their tracks, until a speeding van finally comes between them. In shock, the sisters continue to make their way home.

Oddly, by the time they reach the safety of their room, Ginger’s wounds have already begun to heal. She convinces Brigitte not to call for a doctor, and more importantly, not to tell Mom.

Ginger is going through a difficult time, developmentally. She’s recently been blessed with a functioning menstrual cycle (better late than never), and she is just now coming into power as a sexual being. She suddenly finds she has a lot more time for the Jock Cocks. But there are other things, too. Weirder things; like the white fur growing out of the wound from her animal attack.

“I can’t have a hairy chest, B. That’s fucked!”

Brigitte lays the werewolf card out on the table, but Ginger only laughs, and thanks her sister for taking her hormonal problems so seriously. The two of them continue drifting apart as Ginger’s hunger to blossom into wolfey womanhood deepens. She can’t help it if Brigitte is immature, and not ready to move on yet.

In a schoolhouse scene reminiscent of Scott Teen Wolf Howard’s triumphant showing at the Spring Dance, Ginger shows up in locker alley with a new attitude, and hot new look, to boot! All her peers drop what they are doing in order to: stop, stare, and go: “Ooooooo!”

Her sister Brigitte is not amused, but she’s got other pots boiling on the stove. Suddenly, she’s a major point of interest for the cute Campus Drug Dealer, Sam (Chris Lemche), who hit the animal that attacked Ginger on that fateful night. He produces from his pocket a Polaroid snapshot of the beast that Brigitte had dropped near his van. He mentions the word “lycanthrope,” and Brigitte’s blood runs cold.

“That would explain the huge, uncircumcised dick,
and why you were running for your life from it.”

Fearing he is getting too close to the topic she has been secretly researching on her sister’s behalf, Brigitte rushes off without giving the boy any more of her time, or even her name. Later that night, she realizes the stakes are much higher than she estimated, when she discovers her sisters’ little nub of a tail.

She is forced to seek out the Campus Drug Dealer in the morning to enlist his help. For the sake of protecting Ginger’s secret, she tells him that she was the one who was bitten. Brigitte knows she hasn’t much time to stop the change, as the moon is nearing the completion of its cycle. On top of that, Ginger is ovulating, and suddenly the easiest girl in school. In the backseat of Jock Cock’s car, a certain kind of magick happens.

“I get this ache… I thought it was for sex,
but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.”

Ginger leads Brigitte to her victim’s final resting place, next door. The fat kid in the hockey outfit just won’t be the same without his yappy, little dog, Norman.

Brigitte takes Ginger to meet with her new friend Sam, as Ginger is suspicious of his willingness to help. The young apothecary produces a horticultural text on the benefits of monkshood in curing humans of uncharacteristically wolfish behaviour, while Ginger engages in territorial pissings with her sisters’ new boyfriend before taking off in a jealous huff.

A terrible accident occurs during yet another altercation with Trina Sinclair, who finds herself unable to cry over the spilled milk she slips on, mostly because she is irrefutably dead. Brigitte and Ginger scramble to clean up the mess before their parents get home, oh-so-narrowly avoiding catastrophe.

“If I wasn't here, would you eat her?”

“No! God, that’d be like fucking her!”

Brigitte lays down the law: keep Ginger hidden until her fate is certain, then get the fuck out of Dodge, together. Just as they had always planned.

Things continue to unravel for the Fitgerald sisters. Their mother knows that the police are seeking to question them about Trina Sinclair’s disappearance. It is during a fumbling lecture that Brigitte discovers a bunch of monkshood, which Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mimi Rogers) has just purchased from a craft store for a flower arrangement. Brigitte promises her sister that she will learn how to use it, and that the two of them will run away together, before it’s too late. When Brigitte slips out to confer with Sam, she barricades Ginger in the bathroom.

In a tender moment following numerous scenes of alchemistic eye candy, Sam indicates to Brigitte that he has seen through her rouse all along: "Understand that you may kill her trying to save her." Brigitte leaves Sam, and returns home to find that Ginger has broken out of the bathroom. The hunt begins…

Did I mention it just happens to be Halloween? Brigitte encounters Jock Cock, who has come down with the same illness as her sister, assailing a little trick-or-treater, and is forced to use her anti-werewolf potion on the foamy-fanged lad. She is relieved to discover that the solution Sam cooked up for her works! Cock Jock wakes up from his wolven frenzy, as though from a bad dream. Now that Brigitte has the cure, it is even more imperative that she find Ginger before it’s too late.

Ginger is in the Guidance Office, pretty far-gone on the lycanthrope scale, standing amid the bloody aftermath of her latest kill. Once again, younger sister must help big sister clean up after her indulgent atrocities. Meanwhile, in the midst of a little backyard gardening, their parents unearth a chunk of Trina Sinclair. Mrs. Fitzgerald assures her husband that the severed fingers are merely props left over from the girls’ death project, but the look on her face suggests that she isn’t buying her own excuse.

Before Brigitte can make it back to the Guidance Office with some commercial strength cleaning supplies, Ginger finds herself another chew toy. This time, it's the kindly, old Asian janitor who has taken a shining to the younger Fitzgerald sister.

“It feels so good, Brigitte. It’s like touching yourself,
you know? Every move, right on the fucking dot...
I’m a goddamn force of nature.
I feel like I could do just about anything..."

Ginger eyes her sister strangely, almost sexually. Eating her would be like fucking her. A look of panic washes over Brigitte’s face, but Ginger doesn’t want to eat her. She wants to be with her, always. Like a new pact.

“I said I’d die for you!”

“No, you said you’d die with me,
because you had nothing better to do.”

Ginger erupts in anger and takes off, leaving Brigitte lying in the corridor to contemplate the final showdown, which is inevitable. The stage is set: there is a big, Halloween bash going down at the greenhouse where Sam the Knowledgeable Drug Dealer cultivates his herbs. As soon as she can get to her feet, Brigitte puts her combat boots to pavement and races there. A van pulls up beside her as she attempts to hitch a ride. It’s her mother. She knows about Trina Sinclair, and wants to help. She isn’t about to let anything happen to her Tiny Babies.

Mrs. Fitzgerald waits in the car while Brigitte makes her way inside the greenhouse to claim her sister. She finds her in the back room, making advances on Sam. Brigitte has had enough of her sisters’ selfishness. She takes up a blade, and exchanges blood once again with Ginger.

“You wrecked everything for me
that isn’t about you...
Now, I am you.”

Suddenly, Ginger’s voice takes on a considerably more testosteroney quality, and they realize that the sand has nearly drained from the hourglass. Soon, the moon will be full, and if Ginger’s transformation isn’t stopped before then, there will be no turning back for her. They leave their mother at the party, and take off with Ginger in the back of Sam’s Mystery Mobile to “get the stuff” (monkshood). Wolfed to the Max at this point, Ginger breaks loose from the vehicle and heads into the house for a game of hide and seek.

While cooking up a batch of Werewolf B. Gone in the pantry with Brigitte, the dashing, young Sam slaps her with a tempting proposition: take the cure herself, and run away with him. But Brigitte already belongs to another. True to her sister to the foreseeably-bitter end, she insists they persevere.

Kiss your boyfriend goodbye, Brigitte…

Ginger serves Sam up as an offering to her little sister. Brigitte tries to resist the allure of his syrupy, crimson essence, but suffers a momentary lapse of reason due to the fact that she is feeling somewhat wolfey herself, of late. Sam is choking on his final breaths while the Fitzgerald sisters lap up the blood flowing from his wounds.

Her humanity returned to her in an instant, Brigitte refuses to become what Ginger has become. The climactic final showdown between them takes place, appropriately enough, in the bedroom they shared for so many years.

“I’m not dying in this room with you!”

Ginger lunges, falling on Brigitte’s blade. The broken beast that lies gasping in a pool of its own blood dies in her sisters’ arms.

I always cry when I watch this movie through to the end. I am wiping a salty stream from my face even as I write this, in fact. Ginger Snaps triggers my empathic nerve because of the fact that I see so much of myself in it. My own sister and I are a lot like Ginger and Brigitte, right down to the colourful, oh-so-typically Canadian lingo which spews from their mouths in every frame. We look out for one another, protect one another, and love one another almost to the exclusion of all else.

The taut tale, written by Karen Walton, was lighthearted and comical at times, while never losing sight of the end goal, which was to produce a serious horror film. Ginger Snaps delivers top-notch tension and suspense, teamed with fabulously-gory makeup effects. John Fawcett’s direction of this picture is superb; the only complaint I have is that some of the scenes ran a little long to me, and could possibly have benefited from being edited down. However, I can’t help but feel that the long, loving gazes the lens would fix on the Fitzgerald sisters was an indication of the director’s obvious passion for the story, and the characters which live in it.

Or, perhaps he was simply as captivated as I was with the unmistakable chemistry between Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins as Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald. While both of the young actresses did a remarkable job in the realization of their respective roles (particularly with regard to the special bond they shared as not only sisters, but also social outcasts), Ms. Perkins’ star outshines that of Ms. Isabelle considerably. Her execution of the strong, conflicted character, Brigitte, is nothing short of brilliant. While Isabelle’s performance hits all the right notes in leaving the viewer with a lasting impression of Ginger slowly becoming a sleek, sexy killer wolf, Perkins is absolutely effortless as she delivers one of the meatiest female performances in recent genre memory.

Last, but certainly not least, I'd like to say a few words about Mimi Rogers in the role of Mrs. Pamela Fitzgerald: Fan. Fucking. Tastic. A true, comedic ninja, Rogers nails the cookie-baking, heart-to-heart talk-having, holiday print shirt-wearing mother directly and accurately to the wall, while John Bourgeois props her up as the Clueless Husband.

A number of sequels (and even a prequel) have followed this original title, but none of them have even come close to achieving the perfectly-balanced level of technical prowess, artistic brilliance, and undeniable screen magic as the initial effort.

5/5 Kitty Skulls = Pick of the litter!


Paolo Motta said...

Wow,your blog is fantastic. I'm an Italian comic and screen writer, friend of Maurizio Ercole. And I like horror very mutch

Karswell said...

I couldn't agree more. This is without a doubt one of the best modern werewolf films made since American Werewolf in London (Dog Soldiers is pretty damn good too) ... it's fresh, inventive, sexy, and does something with the lycanthrope theme that you rarely see in films from this genre it allows its characters to establish a real sense of dynamic pathos. I actually thought the sequels were all pretty decent, though nothing comes close to the first one. I give it 3 big sixes too.

And why am I laughing at the word "monkshood?" Oh that's right... “That would explain the huge, monkshood, and why you were running for your life from it.”

Kitty LeClaw said...

Paolo: Thank you for the kind words. I hope you'll check back from time to time to see what's new! Ciao!

Kitty LeClaw said...

Karswell: You better agree, or I'll be puttin' my claws in yer shit!! Fuck democracy, this is a dictatorship. Fear my iron paw!

Dog Soldiers is pretty damn good too

I enjoyed Dog Soldiers, but found it didn't hold up very well to subsequent viewings. Must have been the lack of dynamic pathos a la cute, Canadian girls! ;o)

Hey, guess what?


Kitty LeClaw said...

Karswell: Juss playin', albeit maybe a little bit rough. Still wanna shoot marbles at recess, even tho I'm a bully?

Karswell said...

>Still wanna shoot marbles at recess

You've been looking in my Speedo again.

CRwM said...

Snaps's rep seems to grow over time. And the flick deserves it.

Though I'd say that I actually prefer the sequel to the first flick. The whole werewolf rape/breeding sub-plot, a scene that takes the "it's like touching yourself" line to surreal extremes, psycho children - that flick's got it all. Plus, the tone is so relentless and grim. I love that one. The monster as puberty thing, rubs me as a bit "Buffy."

Anyway, I'm splitin' wolf hairs. The first one's great.

Kitty LeClaw said...

Karswell: Hard not to when you keep leaving the book open to that page!

Kitty LeClaw said...

CRWM: I may not have given Numero Deux a fair shake. I am generally a hater of sequels, and often don't like them before I've even watched them. This is silly, I know. Some sequels are fantastic.

Part 3, the "prequel," was interesting. Had some really powerful imagery, but I just couldn't get myself to fully buy it. When in doubt, go native. Canadians will watch anything starring Hugh Dillon, though, so I'm sure they made some money.

The Headless Werewolf said...

GINGER SNAPS deserves heaps of love, and Katharine Isabelle deserves more roles. God, I even loved her in JASON VS FREDDY.

Kitty LeClaw said...

Headless Werewolf: I was just telling Karswell (aside) that I have a massive crush on Ms. Isabelle.

Gibb: "I only smoke when I drink now."
Kia: "But you're always drinking!"
Gibb: "Yeah, well, I'll work on that next!"

Anonymous said...

I usually don't like werewolf movies but this one is one of my favorites. Great write up kitty.

Kitty LeClaw said...

Absinthe: Awwww... Thanks, Sweets! Or, should I say Fangs?

I find a lot of werewolf movies try to hard. All you needz is a bite and a decent-looking wolf. SILVER BULLET is actually my favourite wolfey movie, and it was pretty much made for kiddies! Stephen King takes a lot of crap cuz he's gone so mainstream, but his storytelling abilities give me shivers. So honest, his writing. His characters really come alive for me, and this was one of the few King movies which hit the mark as well on film as on paper.

As for you, Miss, I've been a really bad blogger lately. I'll catch up on yer Gloomyness real soon, I promise! I've been "on vacation." But I back now :D

The Vicar of VHS said...

This is a great flick, an oddity in modern werewolf films in that it really seems to GET that the horror of lycanthropy is as much the fear of BECOMING a werewolf yourself as it is being killed by one of the hairy beasts. That's why Emily Perkins is the star here--her real emotional conflict over whether to become a werewolf or not, set up by her outcast status and her unusually close relationship to her now-cursed sister, is an intriguing idea and brilliantly acted by the young actress. It's that relationship between Perkins and Isabelle that drives the conflict and the tragedy of her final decision--just excellently done.

I love this flick, but I also agree with crwm that the sequel is even better, with Perkins carrying on that bravura acting performance as she fights to stay human and is disbelieved by everyone she turns to for help--just like all good tragic werewolf heroes are. The "Ghost" subplot and twist in that truly surprised me, but in a way that seemed right rather than tacked on. A great pair of movies, and enough cannot be said about Perkins' acting chops.

I also loved the idea of the "one-way transformation" here, which was new to me--once you go werewolf, there's no going back. It gave the flick a kind of urgency as Perkins tried to save her sister from her animal desires, for which the sexual subtext (or really, not so sub--just "text") worked lots better than in The Howling sequels, imo.

I haven't seen part 3, and now I don't know why. But still, wow. What a double-feature.

Great write-up, Kitty!

The Vicar of VHS said...

Oh, as Isabelle as the Wolf-Grrrl? HAWT. Loved the extra-nipples on the wolf suit.


Paolo Motta said...


Kitty LeClaw said...

Vicar: That's why Emily Perkins is the star here--her real emotional conflict over whether to become a werewolf or not

Indubitably. This morning, I took it one step farther, and decided that the movie is so much more about Brigitte finding herself, and coming into her own power, than it is about barkin' at the moon.

The sisters' theory that they cannot survive without one another is thoroughly disproven by the film's end. Without Ginger's inescapable shadow there to rob her of all sunlight, perhaps Brigitte will become the bright beacon she could never have been while Ginger was alive?

Maybe that's why I couldn't get into the sequels? I wanted it to end there, with poetic justice.

Re: Katharine Isabelle, F'REALZ. Emily Perkins is rather wanktastic, as well (though she is often typecast as a plain, brainy type). She's been a staple of Canadian TV/Cinema for years, and done us all proud when she appeared in Stephen King's IT with Tim Curry.

Tenebrous Kate said...

This is a great movie, and has one of the more fearless and dynamic portrayals of young women and their sexuality that I can remember in recent memory--scratch that, *ever* on-screen. You're making me lusty to reach for my copy of this movie, which has collected dust on a shelf for ENTIRELY too long. A very nice write-up, leibchen!

Karswell said...

Shari, Shari, Shari... how I love that you have a tag labeled Metamorphosis Lycanthropy.

"Formulae ueteres exorsismorum et excommunicationum
Strigas et fictos lupos credere
Daemon pellem lupinam
In trunco quodam cauae
Arboris occultandum..."


"Ancient formulas of exorcisms and excommunications
that witches and those made wolves believe
I maim now the demon clothed in wolfskin
Having to hide in the hollow of a tree
I believe werewolves can change shapes."

Kitty LeClaw said...

Kate: Making you lusty has ranked high on my to-do list after receiving Story of O from you in the mail. Pay your dues, and you shall be rich beyond your wildest dreams.

I just thought of another of GINGER SNAPS' more outstanding features: the blissful lack of a trendy soundtrack. I've seen too many promising films disintegrate into little more than glorified music videos, and that's just Le Sad. Why score a film, when you can just plug in to some kid's iPod?

Kitty LeClaw said...

Stephen: "I believe werewolves can change shapes."

Have you seen Shiro lately?

"He himself ran in terror, and reaching the silent fields howled aloud, frustrated of speech. Foaming at the mouth, and greedy as ever for killing, he turned against the sheep, still delighting in blood. His clothes became bristling hair, his arms became legs. He was a wolf, but kept some vestige of his former shape."

- Ovid, Metamorphoses Book I

Anonymous said...

wicked post shari, your blog is as awesome as you

Kitty LeClaw said...

Anonymous: Is that my little Baby Seal???

The Costuminatrix said...

This is an EXCELLENT writeup. "Ginger Snaps" is a fave amongst my pals - I admit to seeing it in a hotel room late one night and being too sleepy to appreciate it. Your post makes me want to watch it again.

Karswell said...

Gimme something new to devour.


The Igloo Keeper... said...

Beautiful review. Great film. I loved the quotes you picked out, there are just so many great ones.