Ginger Snaps: Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Directed by John Fawcett
Written by Karon Walton
2000, Region A, 108 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on July 22nd, 2014
Emily Perkins as Brigitte Fitzgerald
Katharine Isabelle as Ginger Fitzgerald
Kris Lemche as Sam
Mimi Rogers as Pamela Fitzgerald
Jesse Moss as Jason McCardy
Danielle Hampton as Trina Sinclair
Reviewer's note: I first saw Ginger Snaps sometime in 2002 and immediately fell in love with the film. Artisan's half-ass DVD release didn't do the film justice (it's pan-and-scan for Christ's sake), so I ordered TVA Films' outstanding Canadian release and reviewed it for HorrorTalk. Because my feelings have not changed much from that original viewing until now, much of that first review has been ported over here.
Ginger (Katharine Isabelle - American Mary, the TV mini-series Carrie) and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins - In Cold Blood, Stephen King's IT) are sisters obsessed with death; not so much death in general, but their own deaths. They spend their days arranging macabre mock suicides and taking pictures of the morbid displays for posterity and school projects.
Social outcasts, the girls spend their time in school either smoking and making fun of others or spending time in the guidance counselor's office for whatever twisted thing they did that particular day. It's during the former of the two pastimes that Brigitte – "B" – is overheard describing resident queen bee Trina's fake obituary and pays for it by getting clobbered on the lacrosse field by the other girl (Danielle Hampton).
Vowing to get even – and against their mother's orders to stay inside – the sisters head off to Trina's house to arrange a phony death scene around her beloved dog. However, the girls never reach their destination, as Ginger is attacked by a mysterious animal halfway through the journey. After much struggling, the girls manage to get away, but Ginger is pretty torn up.
Because of whatever bit her, Ginger starts going through some incredible changes – puberty being the least of them, and B has to find the cure to Ginger's problem.
Ginger Snaps works on a couple of different levels, the first being the story. I've mentioned in previous reviews that I enjoy vampire movies that go against the traditional grain. Movies like Stakes and Blade (and its sequel Blade 2) have given us day-walking vampires, cures for vampirism and, overall, a different take on vampire lore. Snaps does this for the werewolf genre; silver does not have an effect on the lycanthropes, they can be killed by something as simple as an automobile striking them and, most interestingly, they can be cured with an herb known as monk's hood. The changes are not as drastic as the day-walking vampire, but Snaps still manages to breathe some fresh air into the werewolf legend.
In addition, the film does right what so many others in the horror genre do wrong: it puts the characters ahead of the big bad. You know why Dawn of the Dead is timeless? Because of the characters, not the zombies. You could replace the zombies with about anything else – cannibals, evil clowns, bears, hipsters – and the film would still work because Romero made you love the characters first and then put them in an a volatile situation. It's the same here. Shortly after the opening credits, you are already attached to B and Ginger because they are strong characters. Underdogs and outcasts for sure, but not weak. The werewolf is virtually a non-issue until the final act. Ginger Snaps is clearly as much a statement on the changes we go through in high school as it is a werewolf movie, and that's why it works. It's not just a movie about a lycanthrope, it's a movie about two kids trying to find their way in life without conforming to society, and it's awesome.
It helps that Isabelle and Perkins are extremely believable as sisters. When the film was made, neither was experienced enough to lead a movie on her own, yet together they are fantastic and you can see the budding talent in each. Going beyond dialogue, the young ladies use facial expressions and body language to get their point across as only siblings can. Never over-the-top, the girls are great to watch, especially the dinner conversations with their mother (Mimi Rogers - Lost in Space). Without the actresses' synergy, Ginger Snaps would have been another run-of-the-mill werewolf story. Isabelle and Perkins make what would have been a good movie, great.
Another great performance is turned in by Kris Lemche (eXistenZ, Knockaround Guys) as Sam, the anti-hero. The local drug dealer and greenhouse employee, Sam is critical to the search for a cure for Ginger. Lemche manages to make the pot peddler quite likable and intelligent – a welcome change from Hollywood's usual caricature of a pothead (see Brad Pitt in True Romance). I find it interesting that director John Fawcett used a drug dealer as both a hero and an intricate part of the movie, because pot smokers usually are used for cannon fodder, public service announcements, or both.
The rest of the cast are admirable, from Jesse Moss (a victim of Ginger's "affection") to John Bourgeois (the girls' father). However, it should come as no surprise that Mimi Rogers outshines the rest of the supporting cast. Her performance as the girls' out-of-touch mother is a borderline caricature, but Rogers pulls it off with believability. That said, the other actors certainly hold their own and the dialogue is never wooden or contrived.
When I first reviewed Ginger Snaps, I felt the special effects were quite good. But after both numerous watches throughout the years and checking it out this amazing Scream Factory Blu-ray, I have to reluctantly admit that the werewolf is hit or miss. But, and maybe this is my admitted bias to the film, I have to give the movie a pass. A lot of fans have problems with how the werewolf looks a bit hokey at times, but it is nice to see a film going back to the basics and using animatronics as opposed to computer graphics. Relying on quick cuts and brief glimpses, you never see the wolf long enough to find it too unbelievable. There are longer shots of it at the end of the movie that certainly don't help any, but there aren't a tremendous amount of those and I'm never taken out of the movie.
Ask any film reviewer if their opinion has ever changed for better or worse since the first time they watched a movie and wrote or spoke their opinion on it and you'd be hard-pressed to find one who doesn't have at least one film that they now have different thoughts of. When I first reviewed Ginger Snaps, I gave it four out of five stars. But this time around, I'm going to give it a slight bump because it's so good on so many levels, different people will find different things to like about it, and it only gets better on repeated viewing. That's what a great movie is supposed to do and that's what Ginger Snaps does.
Video and Audio:
Scream Factory brings Ginger Snaps home with a beautiful 1.78:1 presentation. I try to avoid using terms like "it's never looked this good", but my god, it's never looked this good. Detail is exquisite (I audibly said 'wow' more than once), and colors natural. This pic is gorgeous.
If the picture is outstanding, the DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 is even better. Dialogue is always crisp and the sides, rears and sub get an ample workout throughout the movie.
- Audio Commentary with Director John Fawcett
- Audio Commentary with Writer Karen Walton
- Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth and Fur
- Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films
- Deleted Scenes
- Deleted Scenes with Director John Fawcett Commentary
- Deleted Scenes with Writer Karen Walton Commentary
- Cast Auditions and Rehearsals
- Creation of the Beast
- Being John Fawcett
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Production Design Artwork
Both commentaries are highly enjoyable and well worth a listen. They are very informative without being technical, and I highly recommend budding writers listen to Walton's track.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the folks over at Scream Factory not only ported the majority of features that were on the Canadian special edition DVD but they also threw in some of their own additions. The first of these is Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth and Fur. Running over an hour, this documentary is a great retrospective filled with interviews from many aspects of the film, from cast to crew, writer, director and more. If you love Ginger Snaps as much as I, this is a wonderful watch.
Also new is Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films. The piece is a roundtable discussion moderated by Kristy Jett (horror journalist) and featuring Axelle Carolyn (director of Soulmate), Heidi Martinuzzi (horror journalist and founder of Planet Etheria), and Rebekah McKendry (director of marketing and awesomeness at Fangoria Entertainment). The four discuss the role of women in not just Ginger Snaps but horror movies in general. It's a fascinating feature that is too short even at 27 minutes.
There are 25 minutes of deleted and extended scenes that are also available with optional commentary from Facett or Walton. The cut scenes are hit and miss, and overall there is nothing to be found that would have added anything that the film is missing even though they are all enjoyable. I am most fond of the scene with the two talking to on of their teachers regarding Ginger's potential suspension as it shows even more how B really is the stronger of the two sisters. There's also one that shows what happened to the girls' mother that while wisely cut, it is nice to see how her story played out at the end.
The cast auditions and rehearsals are a rare treat. Rarely do special features include auditions, much less rehearsals, so this is a great behind-the-scenes feature.
Creation of the Beast is a fun five-minute featurette on the design of the werewolf. Although the audio is sometimes muffled and hard to hear, it's still worth a watch.
Being John Fawcett is fun and brief two-minute behind-the-scenes piece consisting of footage of the director talking to stars Isabelle and Perkins.
The other featurette on the disc is your standard five-minute "fluff" piece containing interview, sound bites, and clips from the movie.
Rounding it out are the standard trailers, TV spots and photo gallery of some of the production artwork used in the film.