Monday, 20 April 2009

Saving The Twilight Fans Souls Part 2 - Ginger Snaps

With the first half of this article I looked at Vampires, which after all are main selling point of the series, while stating “The Lost Boys” as a better model for teenage vampires than those found in the “Twilight” series.
Now one thing I have never understood is the appeal of Vampires, I mean out of all the supernatural creatures I would have to say, that I wouldn’t choose to become one, especially when werewolves (Or Lycan’s if you want to be technical) have always held more of an appeal. Now just think about it for a moment. Who do you really think would win out of a fight between a Werewolf and a Vampire? It would have to be the werewolf right! This of course, is if both were at the base level, as I’m sure a vampire like Dracula might certainly give a werewolf more of a run for it’s money, but a low level vampire, probably wouldn't last too long against something that is a mixture of speed aswell razor sharp teeth and claws , especially seeing how little defence being dark and mysterious tends to provide in those kind of situations. Still it seems there are plenty of films, TV shows and books keen to add a sexy angle to Vampires, but few bothering to look at werewolves especially teenage ones, with most of the results forgettable like “I was a teenage werewolf” (1957) or pretty cringe worthy as is the case with “Teen Wolf” (1985) with it’s bus surfing sequence, let alone the fact that no one finds it too strange the basketball team have a star Werewolf player.
Thankfully there is one film which bothers to try and do teenage werewolves well, while also taking the time to add a new spin on certain elements of the Werewolf mythos, which is perfectly fine if done in a way that makes sense, as “Johnny 666” rightfully pointed out with his comments to the first half of this article, pointing out “Martin” (1977) as a fine example of this, were we follow the loner of the title, who has convinced himself that he is a 84 year old vampire, using razor blades and syringes to extract the blood he craves, rather than the traditional use of fangs and it’s this freedom to adapt such classic areas of the horror genre, that “Ginger Snaps” shares which lead to me choosing “Ginger Snaps” as the proof of decent teenage Werewolves, a case I will now proceed to put forward to you all.

The plot of "Ginger Snaps" is less traditional than the usual plot of werewolf movies, as it focuses on Ginger (Isabelle) and Brigitte (Perkins) who are two outcast sisters, who share a worrying obsession with death and suicide, however when Ginger is attacked by a strange wolf creature, she soon begins to change and it’s soon up to Brigitte and local doper Sam (Lemche) to find out a cure.

Opening with a memorable sequence in which we watch a young child playing in a sandbox, while his mother rakes leaves, before she discovers that her child, is playing with the detached paw of the family dog, whose fate is soon quickly revealed (as the first of numerous doggy corpses this film has), causing the mother to run with her child screaming into the street, as Bridget looks on with uninterested disregard for what is going on, which is when we soon realise that she is to be our main lead and one of the first of many traditional conventions that the film chooses to break, by having a lead who isn’t instantly recognised for her attractiveness and is by all first glances very much plain, which is much the same for her sister Ginger . These two sisters are for these reasons, similar to Enid and Rebecca in “Ghost World” (2001) playing unlikely leads for the film, especially seeing how they are pretty much the outcasts at their school, a mantle which they appear to relish, especially when they do little to change this perception, spending their free time obsessing over killing themselves, which Ginger so tactfully puts when she’s refers to it as “The ultimate fuck you”, while making their home made movies of fake death scenes, which also form the montage, for the opening credits as we witness the sisters handy work, which even includes a nod to “Twin Peaks” with their “wrapped in plastic" body as each scene becomes increasingly creative and gory including my personal favourite the “Death by lawnmower” and it's their attitude to life, which could have in lesser scripts worked against the film, but it’s only when we are introduced to the so called normal kids, that we actually appreciate the film for choosing to follow the characters it does, especially seeing how the majority of them are bitchy and popularity obsessed clones. However even with the normal kids director John Fawcett, takes time to make them different from the usual cookie cutter supporting characters, which for the most part are mainly subtle things like the school bitch “Trina” (Danielle Hampton) having a pet Rottweiler instead of the usual small yappy kind of dog, which her character would more traditionally be seen with, but then “Ginger Snaps” is a film that cares little for tradition of what it should be, as it refuses to allow itself to be chained to the traditions of earlier werewolf films in much the same way it refuses to stick to the tradition ideas of horror film characterisation, as is notable in the case of Sam, who might be a Doper but is completely devoid of any of the usual stoner traits which, are normally associated with the position much like Josh Harnett’s drug dealer Zeke in “The Faculty" (1998), who ironically like Sam is the one person who can save our leads, even if it isn’t fully explained how he knows so much about werewolves. Still “Ginger Snaps” is a film with numerous colourful and memorable characters, such as Bridget and Ginger’s restrained and uptight mother, aswell as the overly happy school nurse, which in many ways makes me want to compare this film to the likes of the earlier mentioned “Ghost World” as well as “Donnie Darko” both of which had their own colourful cast of characters, especially in the case of the latter, which at many times shares a similar atmosphere to this film.

It can also be argued that the werewolf in “Ginger Snaps” as a film is a metaphor for many things, with the most popular theory being, that it is a representation of puberty and the changes, the body goes through at that time, especially seeing how Ginger is attacked after having her first period, but this metaphor could also be challenged by that of the AIDS Metaphor that David Cronenberg would use with both “The Fly” (1986) and “Rabid” (1977) which I feel here too it is equally represented, as Ginger passes on the werewolf virus to Henry (John Bourgeois) after they have sex, with another note worthy scene appearing towards the end when Bridget cuts both her and Ginger’s palms open before pushing their exposed wounds together, causing her too to contract the virus, both incidents of course being subtle changes to the werewolf mythos, were traditionally victims only became werewolves after being attacked, again we also see changes in how Ginger becomes a werewolf, which rather than a quick transformation, it is more of a gradual change over time, into her full beast form at the films climax, in much the same as Cronenberg’s fly remake, with the early changes appearing subtly such as her body emitting pheromones, which make her more attractive the boys at school, while also awakening her inner sexuality, with the changes soon becoming more physical such as her growing a tail, with changes continuing as she nears her final form, which thankfully Fawcett choose to achieve not using CGI like so many films in recent years seem dependant on using, but instead choosing to use old school prosthetics to achieve the transformation effect he requires, which I honestly prefer to see, especially when you consider how many films are ruined due to the lack of believability, that often comes with extensive use of CGI effects, which should always be used to assist rather than being the sole means of achieving such effects.

Still “Ginger Snaps” is not a film without fault, though the majority of which is more to do with me nit picking, than anything that stops the film from being an enjoyable film to watch and these are mainly things such as why Director Fawcett, feels the need to make Ginger blonde as she nears her final transformation, rather than just keeping her ginger, again this could be just my nitpicking (and no doubt largely to do with appreciation for red heads) that I found her less attractive as a blonde and wishing they hadn’t made such an unnecessary change. It also makes me wonder what Fawcett has against dogs seeing how when ever any animal is killed in this film, it’s always a dog, with several of these corpses turning up at random moments, such as one particular corpse which Trina knocks Bridget into whilst playing hockey, which nobody apparently seems to have noticed before this moment, judging how every stands around it looking confused, but these are minor complaints at best and as I stated before, nothing which ruins your enjoyment.

Ginger Snaps was released to a fairly muted reception, which meant that it came and went, only to be later hunted down by the horror fans, upon its DVD release were it gained a strong cult following and giving the studio enough reason to commission a sequel and a prequel, both of which were met with mixed reviews, while the original film still remains one of the strongest werewolf movies of recent years and the lesser films which have followed in it’s wake such as "Cursed", “Blood and Chocolate” (2007) and the “Underworld” series which was keen to push werewolves more towards the villain role, with the only hope at present for the genre being Joe Johnston’s 2009 remake of the 1941 classic “The Wolf Man”.
Instead “Ginger Snaps” deserves its place with such classics as “The Howling” (1981) and “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)


  1. Did you read Ray Garton's novel Ravenous? Lycanthopism is presented as venereal in that book and I definitely think you would get a kick out of it. Check it out.

    When I first saw Ginger Snaps, I wasn't a fan. The subsequent sequel and prequel weren't much to be applauded either. But there's some great subtext and some great metaphor, as with most werewolf tales, especially from a female perspective. And you know I love a werewolf.

    rock on...

  2. I will have to add it to my reading list, though currently got quite a pile of books to get through, seeing how reading is another of my loves and not helped by working in a bookstore.
    I'm hopfully going to check out the sequel and prequel at some point soon, so expect a write up on here at some point.


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