Ginger Snaps (2000)
03/14/2016 - Director John Fawcett made Ginger Snaps during changing times, both politically and socially. We watched the real-life horror of the Columbine school shooting unfold as Ginger's production was underway; polarizing ideas about teen violence and sexuality kept creeping into conversations as the new millennium began. The bright paint and polish of the '90s had chipped away, exposing a youth that was well-raised and well-dressed and well-educated but felt a bit lost and abandoned, both envious and spiteful of their parents' generation. Nothing particularly unique or new, perhaps; another wave in the tides of globalized war and industry, but maybe that's a discussion for another time.
Karen Walton provides the script, laced with just a touch of the wordy, pretentious style that initially led us all to believe Kevin Smith had more talent than he actually does. The dialogue is smart, effective, and character-driven. She creates these characters, sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), as somewhat critical sketches of teenage girls, isolated from their parents and peers but punishingly codependent. Outwardly, they're ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, albeit together and together only. They're obsessed with death and gloom and gore, they loathe their classmates' attention to sex and drugs, and they've yet to menstruate.
That's right, the adolescent transformation to womanhood is used here as a sort of metaphor (and journeyed by Ginger in parallel) to that of the transformation to werewolf (yet somehow completely missing that whole lunar cycle thing). Maybe it's a joke, maybe just not very well thought out cleverness, or maybe I'm taking it way too seriously, but I'm going to be blunt: I jumped off the train at this point. I still enjoyed the movie, because there's blood everywhere by the end (cringe) and people get partially eaten and it's funny as hell. But I don't really know how or what to feel about that particular metaphor, whether to chuckle or choke, to feel empathetic or indifferent. I found, via Wikipedia, a most excellent article by Bianca Nielsen, which I think does well to explain the conundrum, and which you can read here. I don't know ... you read, you decide, whatever, let's get on with it.
Further critique of '90s suburban life comes in the form of mom Pamela (Mimi Rogers) and dad Henry (John Bourgeois). Happily gardening or sitting 'round the dinner table, they're hopelessly frustrated at their own inability to parent. Ginger Snaps paints suburban life in only slightly less saturated hues than Burton's Suburbia in Edward Scissorhands, quiet and distracted enough not to think much of the mutilated pet leftovers found lying around. Rogers is brilliant as the girls' mom, offering much-appreciated humor and (eventually) humanity: a character you might mock, but quietly adore.
I could go on about the subtexts of generational discord, apathy in the industrialized age, pop culture and subcultures, but I'm sure you've gotten the idea by now. Ginger Snaps is a very strong film, not a masterpiece, but it's more sincere and heartfelt than what some might expect from a horror flick. It's the sort of movie you can watch with friends, open a few beers, and stay up late discussing and imbibing and getting to know one another better.
The effects are great, plenty of blood ("Corn syrup! Want to taste, daddy?") decent makeup and prosthetics and I actually loved the life-size puppet at the end, because personally, I appreciate practical effects. Ginger's final transformation is very well done, lots of slime and grossness and I giddily ate it up. Impressive editing (Brett Sullivan, also at the editing desk for Ginger Snaps 2 and A Christmas Horror Story) keeps you in the action and away from looking too closely, and there are a few jumps and genuine tension in the final scenes. It's not a gore-fest, because it's not supposed to be; it is, however, a well-made horror movie that doesn't try to pull off more frill than it should.
I enjoyed Ginger Snaps, my slight issue with the theme notwithstanding. I recommend watching it (maybe rent it?) and taking it for what it has to offer: a tale of two twisted suburban sisters battling a very bloody, um, transformation.