Sunday, October 24, 2010

30 Days of Fright - 23: Ginger Snaps

My like of all things Marilyn Manson is well known. The band was one of the first who produce heavier, darker music that I really got into in recent years. Since then my musical tastes have become decidedly heavier and considerably darker, but I still enjoy all the different art that originates from Manson, the band and the man. I can understand how art in whatever form, music, literature, painting, photography, and so on can influence people to do drastic things with their life. I find music and cinema to be particularly inspirational (bad movies inspire me to rip the piss out of them), sadly some people are inspired to do awful things and Manson’s music has been associated with teenage suicide on more than one occasion.

Over the ages people have used storytelling to teach, inspire, and share fears of things in their lives. These stories, like fairytales, and morality plays, and the like, sometimes become part of our cultural heritage and we end up knowing them very well, often without knowing the meaning behind them. Vampires started out as characters used to instil fear about straying from organised religion, Frankenstein’s monster is about fears relating to science, and werewolves are a way of dealing with man’s dual nature (civilised versus animal) as well as teaching about transformation, which we all go through at some stage in our lives.

It’s surprising that it took so long for the subjects of teenage angst and werewolves to meet in movie form, but finally Ginger Snaps (2000) tackled it. Living in suburban Canada two sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) are outsiders by choice, detesting the antics of the popular kids in high school. Ginger is 16 and Brigitte is a year younger but they are both late entering puberty and have yet to have their first period. Both are intelligent with Brigitte smart enough to have skipped a grade enabling her to be in the same class as Ginger where the pair are working on an art project in which they stage photographs of each other in gruesome death poses that reflect their interest in death and their planned suicides.

The neighbourhood where the girls live is suffering a spate of animal attacks and no pet dog is safe. One night, Ginger and Brigitte are out to get revenge on one of their classmates who overheard them talking about her and got some revenge of her own on the hockey field. The Fitzgerald girls plan to fake the death of the girl’s dog but when they get to the house they find the dog has actually been killed by whatever’s been eating the local canine population. Ginger picks that exact moment to enter womanhood and the blood from her period attracts the creature that killed the dog. Ginger is bitten and badly wounded by the creature, which is hit and killed by the van of a drug dealer who works the area.

Ginger doesn’t want to go to the hospital but it turns out she doesn’t need to as her injuries heal quite quickly. In the days following the attack Ginger goes through a series of changes, some related to her suddenly going through puberty, and some not...

Ow, cramps!

Ginger Snaps makes the metaphor about lycanthropy being about puberty, particularly periods and the cycles of the moon, glaringly obvious, but it’s a metaphor that works very well and it makes for a great story. The teen angst (amongst other things) is dripping from this film but that makes it easy to relate to, especially if you weren’t one of the "popular" kids in your school.

The werewolf storyline takes a backseat to the metaphor the film is promoting so there isn’t really much in the line of action, except for the closing act of the movie, which is excellent. The rest of the film deals with the characters of Ginger and Brigitte and how they cope with the changes going on in their lives, regardless of the causes. The transformation Ginger endures is well handled, though slightly clich├ęd as she goes from black hoodie wearing outsider to entry-level slut overnight. Brigitte’s situation is explored the best, as she tries to save her sister from the lycanthropy but in reality is trying to reverse the changes in her so as to avoid having to go through those changes herself.

The casting and performances in Ginger Snaps are excellent all round and there’s little to complain about on that front. The direction and effects are spot on too, going for mechanical effects instead of the over-used CGI option is always preferable in my view. On the production side the only problem I noticed was the sound quality which needed a little work so as to be able to hear the dialogue better. In terms of the script, seeing as how every major character is in their teens, it was nice that there was an actual script as opposed to the series of grunts you’d get in real-life. The soundtrack is spot on too, and I was very happy to see Cradle of Filth feature alongside plenty of Fear Factory.

The ideas behind Ginger Snaps are great and the film is a well put together package, however it’s never easy for a bloke to watch a film that while about werewolves spends most of its time discussing menstruation.

Two Thumbs Up for Ginger Snaps

Links, for all the girls out there who have fallen to the communists, while Aunt Irma was visiting, during a certain time of the month:
Official Movie Site:

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