Ginger Snaps is a 2000 Canadian werewolf film directed by John Fawcett. The film focuses on two close teenage sisters, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins), who are obsessed with death. The title is a pun on the biscuit of the same name. "Snap" also relates to losing one's self-control, or a quick, aggressive bite. During the film's production, the Columbine High School massacre and the W. R. Myers High School shooting took place, causing public controversy over the film's horror themes and the funding it received from Telefilm.
Ginger Snaps was well received by critics, and compared favorably with auteur David Cronenberg's work. Critics also praised the lead actresses performances and the film's use of lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty. Ginger Snaps won the Special Jury Citation award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Based on successful DVD sales, both a sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, and a prequel, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, were filmed back to back in 2003. Though Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed had a limited, yet wider, release than the original, it failed dismally at the box office. Consequently Ginger Snaps Back went direct-to-video.
They set out, and find the mutilated corpse of another dog, which is "still warm". They decide to take it with them to convince Trina it is actually her dog, but, as they pick it up, a leg comes off in Brigitte's hand. Dropping it quickly, Brigitte notices blood on Ginger; but the blood proves to be from Ginger's first period. As Ginger bemoans her "body screwing her", the Beast of Bailey Downs attacks, and drags her into the woods screaming. Brigitte gives chase, finding the Beast has its teeth sunk into Ginger. She whacks the Beast repeatedly with her camera until it releases Ginger. Then, in blind panic, the sisters flee, run across a road, narrowly missing an approaching van (driven by gardener and local drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche), which hits and kills the Beast as the sisters run home, where . . .
Brigitte tends Ginger's wounds, sees they are already healing and pleads to take Ginger to a hospital. Ginger passes this off, as she doesn't want "Pamela", their mother, (Mimi Rogers) to find out. After a few days, Ginger begins to grow hair from the sites of her wounds, sprouts a tail and menstruates heavily. A rift inevitably forms between the sisters after Ginger smokes marijuana with Jason, and aggressively pursues him. Glibly ignoring Brigitte's warnings, she has unprotected sex with Jason, then kills her neighbour's dog on the way home. Ginger explaining to Brigitte: "I got a pain, and I thought it was for sex; but it's to tear everything to fucking pieces!".
Frightened by what is happening to Ginger, Brigitte has turned to Sam. Agreeing the Beast of Bailey Downs is a lycanthrope, he suggests a pure silver ring may cure Ginger's illness. Brigitte persuades Ginger to have her navel pierced, using the ring, saying "We Have to try something". But this proves ineffective as Ginger's bloodlust continues unabated.
Some nights later, Trina goes to the Fitzgerald house, unannounced, claiming Ginger kidnapped her dog. Ginger drags Trina into the house, and slaps her. Trina grabs a knife, but slips on milk (spilled as she broke away from Ginger), bangs her head on the kitchen counter, and is dead as she hits the ground. Despite Trina's death being an accident, the sisters panic, narrowly avoiding their parents seeing them as they put the body in the freezer. Brigitte later accidentally hacks off two fingers trying to get the corpse from the freezer. As they take Trina's body to the playhouse, to bury it beneath the floor, they lose the fingers. In the playhouse, Brigitte tells Ginger she cannot go out anymore, but Ginger proves defiant . . . So, on the pretence that Brigitte is the one "changing", they visit Sam, who suggests a monkshood solution for Ginger's illness; and says "It grows everywhere, but only in spring". Ginger angrily replies they have no time, Brigitte is "growing a tail", and accuses him of being a "pervert" and of just wanting to have sex with Brigitte, before storming out, telling Brigitte "If he rapes you, don't come crying".
On Halloween, Brigitte locks Ginger in their bathroom, takes her mother's monkshood (bought from a craft store), and asks Sam to make the 'cure'. Sam warns her she "Shouldn't let her use it alone; it's for Ginger, isn't it?". Brigitte admits the truth, and promises to go to the 'Greenhouse Bash'. Unfortunately, on the way home, she is forced to use it on Jason (whom Ginger infected through having sex) as she encounters him attacking a young boy. Meantime Ginger, escaping captivity, returns to school looking for Jason. As Brigitte arrives, a message on the PA asks her to go to the Guidance office. She knocks, and is dragged inside by Ginger who has killed the counsellor after he threatened to call her mother. Amidst the blood and gore, Brigitte calms Ginger down, and says "I think you've fucked up enough". Presently, Brigitte goes to find cleaning supplies; but returns to see the janitor with his throat torn open. Ginger pursues and kills him, then forcibly tries to allow her to infect Brigitte, before leaving for the Greenhouse Bash.
The sisters' mother Pamela, discovers Trina's corpse, goes to look for her daughters, sees Brigitte and picks her up in their mpv. As she drives Brigitte to the Greenhouse Bash, she tells her she will "let the house fill up with gas, and light a match" to erase evidence of Trina's death, and their escape. Brigitte arrives to find Sam nursing a broken arm (having fought off Ginger); in despair, she infects herself as Sam pleads with her not to. As the sisters leave, Sam knocks Ginger out with a shovel. Brigitte and Sam then take her back to the Fitzgerald house in his van, and prepare more Monkshood solution to inject Ginger before she completes her transformation.
However, Ginger fully transforms into a werewolf on the way, escaping the van as they arrive at the Fitzgerald house. Afraid, and unaware she has transformed, Sam and Brigitte hide in the pantry, and he makes the solution. As he goes to find Ginger, Ginger-Wolf drags him out, ripping him to shreds as she goes. Brigitte tentatively emerges, picks up the dropped syringe and a kitchen knife to defend herself, and follows the blood trail downstairs. Approaching Sam (heavily mutilated), terrified by what she sees, she tries to drink Sam's blood in an attempt to calm Ginger-Wolf, but chokes on it. Ginger-Wolf senses Brigitte's insincerity, and kills Sam in front of her, then chases Brigitte through the basement, finally leaping at Brigitte to be impaled on her knife. Brigitte then lays upon Ginger-Wolf, sobbing, listening until its breathing finally stops.
The two encountered trouble financing the film. They approached producer Steve Hoban, with whom they had worked before, and he agreed to produce the film. Hoban employed Ken Chubb to edit and polish the story, and after two years they were ready to seek financiers.
Motion International committed to financing and distributing the film in Canada, and Trimark agreed to be the American distributor and financier. The film seemed ready to go into production by fall of 1998, however negotiations with Trimark made the producers miss the budgeting deadline for Telefilm Canada, the Canadian federal film funding agency. Rather than go ahead with only 60% of the funding, Hoban decided to wait a year for Telefilm's funding. During this interval Trimark dropped the film. Lions Gate Films took Trimark's place, and Unapix Entertainment agreed to distribute the DVD. The film's budget was less than $5,000,000 Canadian dollars.
Casting took place in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle auditioned on the same day at their agency in Vancouver, reading to one-another off-camera. When their taped auditions arrived, screenwriter Karen Walton said that they were exactly as she had pictured the characters.
Interestingly, both actresses were born in the same hospital, attended the same pre-school, elementary and private schools, and are at the same agency. Perkins was twenty-two at the time and Isabelle four years younger, but it was Perkins who would be cast as the younger sister.
Thus, after six months of fruitless searching, the two leads were found on the same day. Attention then turned to the next most important characters: the drug dealer and the mother roles. Mimi Rogers readily agreed to play the mother, Pamela, saying that she liked the black humour and comic relief in the role. Robin Cook, the Canadian casting director, put forward one of her favourites, Kris Lemche, for the role of drug dealer Sam. After seeing Kris's audition, Fawcett hired him.
On the first day of principal photography in the suburbs, all the stills photographs for the title sequence were created. The bloody, staged deaths drew a crowd and Fawcett worried about upsetting the neighbours. The girls were covered in fake blood for the shots and, at the time, a homeowner's basement served as their changing room. Each time they needed to change, someone had to distract the homeowner's four-year-old child.
The schedule was quickly so off kilter that cast and crew were turning up to shoot day scenes at 11pm at night, and shooting for a day scene in the greenhouse began at midnight! The Director of Photography solved the problem by using diffusion gel and four eighteen kilowatt lamps which generated enough light to be seen a mile high in the sky.
The special effects proved to be a major hardship. Since Fawcett had eschewed CGI effects, and preferred to use more traditional means of prosthetics and make-up. Consequently Isabelle had to spend up to seven hours in the makeup chair to create Ginger's transformation and a further two hours to remove them. Often covered in sticky fake blood that required Borax and household detergent to remove, she further endured wearing contacts that hindered her vision and teeth that meant she couldn't speak without a lisp. The most aggravating thing was the full facial prosthetic which gave her a permanently runny nose that she had to stop up with Q-tips.
Critics who panned the film thought the puberty metaphor too obvious, the characters too over the top (especially the mother), and the dark humour and horror elements unbalanced. However, they did credit it as a worthy attempt and often gave it half marks on their star scales.
In terms of public opinion, the film earned CAD$425,753 domestically, making it the fifth highest-grossing Canadian film between December 2000 and November 2001. Owing to a cult following, it has managed to post significant video and DVD sales. These earnings combined with moderate theatrical success abroad have translated into the creation of a trilogy.
Because the film links lycanthropy to menstruation and features two sisters, Ginger Snaps lends itself to a feminist critique. "By simultaneously depicting female bonds as important and fraught with difficulties, Ginger Snaps portrays the double-binds teenage girls face." and "Ginger is an embodiment of these impossible binaries: she is at once sexually attractive and monstrous, 'natural' and 'supernatural,' human and animal, 'feminine' and transgressive, a sister and a rival.
Ginger Snaps was nominated for Genie awards in cinematography, editing, and sound editing.
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