“Is becoming a woman analogous, in some deep psychological way, to becoming a werewolf?”
“Is becoming a woman analogous, in some deep psychological way, to becoming a werewolf,” the synopsis for Ginger Snaps (2000) asks. Written by Karen Walton and directed by John Fawcett, Ginger Snaps delves deep into this unconventional comparison and creates a relatable anecdote that makes it a beloved horror film. Sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) Fitzgerald, are proud social outcasts at their high school. They reject the idea of puberty and teenage hormones, and it seems to have worked so far, since both of them are premenstrual at the beginning of the film. On one gruesomely fateful night, Ginger is attacked by a mysterious creature right after starting her very first period. As soon as she seems on the precipice of bleeding out, her wounds begin to self-heal, and she naively pushes her worries away for another day. From that moment on, the film follows as Ginger goes through the mysteriously harmonious and life-changing transformations of adolescence and werewolf-ism.
“B, I just got the curse.”Ginger, Ginger Snaps (2000)
When a girl starts her period, it can feel like her body is betraying her. The energetic, free-spirited body of a kid is replaced with an aching chest, a bloated and painful abdomen, fatigue, and a series of other physically and mentally debilitating side effects. She is confused, her soul embodying the carcass of an alien, and she doesn’t know what buttons to push to get it working right. When a person is bitten by a werewolf and starts the transformation from human to lycanthrope, their body becomes a foreign, uncontrollable entity. Hair grows where it shouldn’t, claws sprout from their hands and feet while razor-sharp teeth grow inches long, and a blood thirst begins to boil in their bellies. Both transformations are portrayed in the film as interchangeable in such a way that is cryptic and laughably campy altogether. Ginger Snaps says that becoming a woman is an undue curse. The menstrual cycle becomes the lunar cycle. The bodily changes of becoming a werewolf carry an emotional weight not seen in horror films before.
Werewolf films in the past have mainly placed focus on the transformation of men, i.e. An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Howling (1981), and Teen Wolf (1985.) However, when told from the perspective of a teenage girl through this film, the body mutilation of ‘the change’ carries a deeper significance. Femininity and masculinity become interchangeable, and the stakes seem to be magnified. Like films such as Jennifer’s Body (2009) and Carrie (1976), Ginger Snaps gives its titular female character supernatural abilities at the height of her sexual transformation, strengthening the female urge and dominance over the opposite sex. These films display a power dynamic in femininity. Ginger possesses an air of masculinity, and her sexual urges are carnal. It shows in moments when she exerts that dominance during sexual encounters. What the writers also provide is the symbol of innocence to combat this. Brigitte portrays soft, innocent femininity and uses her love to try to save her sister. However, both sisters are vital to telling the story of change, and it is their dynamic personas and unbreakable bond that drives the emotional force. Both actresses’ dedication to their roles and even to each other brings in a dramatic flair. Even their mother, Pamela (Mimi Rogers) gives a touching performance as the well-intentioned yet clueless mother.
Ginger Snaps is very much a film for young adults everywhere, with plenty of vulgar dialogue and teenage existentialism. However, it still seems to take its problems seriously while making light of high school life. The medley of cliched dialogue, gruesome murders, female confidence, and body horror makes for an enticing horror film that doubles as a coming of age. Walton’s script accompanied by Fawcett’s dramatic, upward angles and close-ups bring that cheesiness that makes horror the fun genre that it is. In this sense, it can be compared to the highly revered classic before it, Scream (1996.) There is special care placed on the practical effects and the story rather than the setting and the costumes. The normalcy applied to everything else that isn’t the main characters that makes it feel eerily real. Ginger’s werewolf prosthetics are terrifying while also keeping an attractive energy. She holds on to her feminine spirit all the way through her final transformation. The film’s saturated verbal and physical metaphors never feel like a heavy hand on the topics, but instead they feel like a tactical delivery of messages that highlight without exploiting the female body. Ginger Snaps was a fresh take on not only the werewolf genre, but also the coming of age subgenre as well, and what it accomplished was so female-centric and unique that it should be revered as a horror must-watch.
Dir: John Fawcett
Prod: Karen Lee Hall, Steve Hoban
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss, Danielle Hampton, John Bourgeois, Peter Keleghan, and more
Release Date: August 1 2000
Available On: TUBI and Amazon PRIME