Ginger Snaps was one of the few films that was recommended to me multiple times through the course of my October Horror Party. Given that I don’t usually have as much time these days to watch and review movies, I made this one a top priority. I knew I would enjoy it, but I was thoroughly surprised with just how much I loved it. Any horror with female protagonists dealing with very feminine issues is always a plus for me, but there’s something particularly special about Ginger Snaps. It’s about so many things that pertain very particular to women – relationships among sisters, puberty, and sex, among others – but also ties these fascinating themes with a just-as-fascinating werewolf horror story. Ginger Snaps is a film that feels pleasantly mythological, but also uniquely and firmly planted close to home, at least for myself.
I do think that this is quite a beautiful movie. While horror is often criticized for a history of patriarchal tendencies – within the industry, subtext, and strict material altogether – it has also historically rooted its narratives around the lives of women in many different ways. Ginger Snaps does this in some of the best ways I have seen in any film, horror or otherwise, as its story surrounds the lives of two teenage sisters, Brigitte and Ginger. I think this is a powerful move in itself, as it contradicts the popular notion that girls and young women aren’t “serious” enough subject matter from which to create a compelling story.
But these ladies aren’t the cute, flirty types one would find in any run-of-the-mill high school comedy; rather, they are dark, introverted, and obsessed with death. This leads the vast majority of their school’s population to refusal on taking them seriously; they cannot make friends and all they have is each other. Somehow, however, they are not freakish to audiences – we are obliged to sympathize with these two, as their peers don’t seem to be a preferable alternative at all. While everyone around them practices self-servitude to the pervasive air of conformity that are the teenage years, Ginger and Brigitte are independent in their morbidity and it’s no surprise that I fell in love with them immediately.
Thus, when a werewolf attack on Ginger coincides with her first period, crazed panic begins to overtake everything else. The traditional model of society insists that menses indicates one of the first steps for a girl to become a woman, but like her gradual progression into a ravenous werewolf, this was nothing that she asked for, yet it’s also nothing that she could stop. Julia’s Kristeva’s concept of the “monstrous-feminine” rides high here, as it is this transition from girl to woman – new body, new pains, newfound lusts – that she and others around her find so frightening. The rest of the movie follows Brigitte’s desperate attempts to find a “cure” for the violent transformations that have invaded the mind and body of her beloved sister.
While I do admit that the final third tends to be a bit of a mess that I still can’t seem to translate, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy every single minute of this film. The lead actresses, Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, are absolutely fantastic and the delicacy that screenwriter Karen Walton had given this narrative works on every level. While I’ve little complaints about the material as it exists, I can’t help but feel the movie overall would be better if there were a woman directing it. The metaphors at play here are something that men couldn’t understand as substantially, and I think a woman’s artistic vision could really add a lot to the substance. Nonetheless, I’d choose this one over American Werewolf in London any day.