We here at Screen Relish love a good horror movie. So much so, we’ve decided every Saturday to bring you a retrospective look back at perhaps some of those genre entries that have been underrated, unfairly forgotten, missed and abandoned or just so damn good that we needed to scream it from the rooftops. Today’s title is…
GINGER SNAPS picks at most of the same adolescent scabs as Brian DePalma’s 1976 genre classic CARRIE – there’s the underlying mania about the onslaught of womanhood accompanied by the monsterization of the female, which leads to a mounting body count. There are a couple of caveats.
For one, GINGER SNAPS is not the tragedy CARRIE is because Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is not alone. She benefits from the unflagging love and realistic envy and judgment of a sister, Bridget (Emily Perkins). Ginger and Bridget, outcasts in the wasteland of Canadian suburbia, cling to each other, and reject/loathe high school (a feeling that high school in general returns).
Also, Ginger’s no telekinetic. Like Carrie, she’s a high school reject visited a bit late by the monthly gift, an event that gets intermingled with symptoms of something else entirely. On the evening of Ginger’s first period, she’s bitten by a werewolf. Writer Karen Walton cares not for subtlety: the curse, get it? It turns out, lycanthropy makes for a pretty vivid metaphor for puberty.
It’s a wonderful idea for a film that twists many of the genre’s female-driven clichés. Werewolves in horror are almost always male. Chicks usually portray witches, maybe vampires, but the primal rage associated with werewolves is usually linked to men. It’s a nice change of pace.
Walton’s wickedly humorous script stays in your face with metaphors, successfully building an entire film on clever turns of phrase, puns, and analogies, stirring up the kind of hysteria that surrounds puberty, sex, reputations, body hair, and one’s own helplessness to defend against those very elements. It’s as insightful a high school horror film as you’ll find, peppered equally with dark humor and gore – kind of A Canadian Werewolf in High School, if you will.
Director John Fawcett makes the most of a tight budget, editing beautifully around that damnable werewolf movie weakness, the prosthetics. Gallons of blood and gore distract, as well, but it’s the strength of the lead performances that keep all eyes glued on the human faces.