The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Ginger Snaps

I'm not sure how I had never seen 2000's Ginger Snaps, but I'm glad I rectified the situation. If you've never seen the film, you should rectify it, too, especially now that it's available in a collector's edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Scream Factory. This is a horror film with shocks and substance in equal measure. While by no means perfect, it is most certainly a prime example of how the genre can be used to tell stories of genuine depth, as real and identifiable as any straight drama.

Ginger Snaps is the story of the Fitzgerald sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigette (Emily Perkins). Ginger is older, but they're in the same grade because Brigette skipped a year. Neither is very popular. The sisters embrace their outcast ways; for a school project, they make a photo collage of themselves dying violent, horrible deaths. The girls' small Canadian town, Bailey Downs, is suffering a rash of unexplained dog killings, and one night, while carrying out a revenge scheme that involves kidnapping a bully's pooch, Ginger is bitten by a werewolf-like creature. She soon finds her body changing – hair grows where it didn't before, her teeth turn fang-like, etc. - and a thirst for blood developing. Brigette is horrified not only by the physical transition, but the emotional one, as well. The sister she knew slowly disappears.

There's no doubt that Ginger Snaps uses lycanthropy a metaphor for puberty, and in case you don't get that for some reason, the film underlines it for you. We're told early on that neither Fitzgerald sister has gotten her period yet. Ginger gets hers not long after being bit. The movie uses the changes she undergoes to represent the way our bodies change during puberty, the way our emotions become unstable, and the way we feel like some gross, disgusting creature that is a mere shell of our former self. Moreover, it touches on the way puberty can divide siblings. A brother/sister going through the change may drift away from a younger sibling, who is left behind in the “kid” stage. Karen Walton's screenplay draws these parallels in clever ways, often incorporating dark humor without ever losing the sense of underlying horror.

The performances here are outstanding. Katharine Isabelle (who went on to star in another feminist horror film, American Mary) makes Ginger's transformation very credible, as though the character is repulsed by the changes happening to her but also strangely attracted to the power they give. Emily Perkins provides a perfect counterbalance as the horrified Brigette, who must innocently watch as the sister she loves gradually transitions into something unfamiliar. The actress conveys the shock of this perfectly, and the chemistry she shares with Isabelle is the heart of the film.

Director John Fawcett deftly balances terror, dark humor, and thematic weight, and he never shies away from the nastier moments of the story. This is an extremely gory film. Ginger Snaps is perhaps a bit on the longish side (108 minutes) for this kind of thing, and some of the supporting characters are not as fully realized as they could have been. That's especially true of the girls' mom (played by Mimi Rogers), who always seems on the verge of having an important function in the story, yet never quite does. While imperfect, Ginger Snaps gets a lot of things very, very right, and that makes it an uncommonly intelligent fright film, one that unnerves you at a very deep, primal level.

Blu-Ray Features:

Ginger Snaps is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Scream Factory, and the company has done an outstanding job assembling supplementary materials for the film. There are two full-length audio commentaries, one from director John Fawcett, the other from writer Karen Walton.

“Blood, Teeth, and Fur” is an hour-long retrospective documentary featuring interviews from many of the principles. It covers just about everything you could want to know about the making of the film. “Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films” runs 30 minutes and brings together four female horror experts to discuss how Ginger Snaps and other scary movies have addressed puberty – especially as it relates to girls. The resulting conversation is highly enlightening. This is the sort of special feature we need more of on Blu-Rays, as it really enhances the theme of the film being discussed while also placing it in a larger cinematic context.

Also here are twenty-five minutes of deleted scenes, a vintage behind-the-scenes segment, eighteen minutes of rare cast auditions and rehearsal footage, and a look at the creature effects. But wait – there's more! The Blu-Ray additionally includes several theatrical trailers and TV spots for Ginger Snaps, plus a gallery of production design artwork.

Scream Factory has stuffed their collector's edition with all kinds of great material. Ginger Snaps is an entertaining and important genre film, and this Blu-Ray release is one of the year's most impressive.

For more information on the Ginger Snaps Blu-Ray, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Ginger Snaps is unrated, but contains adult language, drug content, and strong graphic violence/gore. The running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.

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