GINGER SNAPS takes a bite out Shout! Factory with the new Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD combo, which finally gives this film the stateside special edition it deserved in the first place.
The Fitzgerald sisters – Ginger (Katharine Isabelle, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR), 16, and Bridget (Emily Perkins, STEPHEN KING'S IT), 15 – made a suicide pact when they were eight and have gone to elaborate means to pre-visualize their gruesome fates (turning them into a photo montage for the school assignment "Life in Bailey Downs"), Strangely enough, their portraits of the dark side of suburbia aren't as off-the-mark as their school counselor (Peter Keleghan, SCREWBALLS) and homemaker mother Pam (Mimi Rogers, THE RAPTURE) would like to think, After all, a "mad dog" has been chomping and tearing its way through the neighborhood's pets, Neither of them have had their periods yet despite their age, further alienating the two Goth siblings from their classmates in the "mindless little breeder's machine" that is high school, Ginger, however, is showing signs of being a late bloomer and starting to catch the attention of the guys – particularly alpha douche Jason McCardy (Jesse Moss, THE UNINVITED) – much to the chagrin of Bridget and school bitch Trina (Danielle Hampton, WHITE KNUCKLES), On the night they decide to kidnap and fake the death of school bitch Trina's Rottweiler, Ginger has her period and is mauled by a massive dog-like creature before it gets crushed under the wheels of a van belonging to local drug dealer Sam (Kris Lemche, THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY),
From that point on, Ginger starts to undergo a change that is worse than "the curse", She dismisses her body pains as cramps (although "Just so you know... the words 'just' and 'cramps', they don't go together") and her destructive and irrational behavior and suddenly aggressive libido as "the change", Bridget thinks her sister is becoming a werewolf, They grow apart as Ginger starts hanging out with the cool kids and Bridget remains an outcast, only finding companionship in Sam who is clinically depressed and also believes in werewolves, When Ginger starts chomping on the neighborhood pets herself, sprouts fur in odd places (as well as fangs, claws, dewclaws, and a tail), and infects Jason through unprotected sex ("Ginger Fitzgerald rocked my world!"), Bridget and Sam scramble to find a cure and discover that the traditional methods do not work, Ginger grows more dangerous as she veers back and forth between suicidal depression and the impulse to "tear living things to pieces." As Halloween and the next full moon near, Bridget may not be able to keep Ginger moving up from pets to human beings who piss her off, The disappearance of a classmate and the ensuing investigation and suspicions that fall upon them may push them towards fulfilling their childhood pack: "Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever."
An example of the then-scarce Canadian independent horror genre from the late nineties/early 2000s when much of what we saw stateside was either from David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, or Alliance Communications productions and pickups (or combinations thereof), GINGER SNAPS was more of a word-of-mouth sleeper discovery usually caught via cable since the it didn't exactly leap off the video store walls, Its humorous commentary on suburbia and high school angst is smart without feeling too derivative of other models while the horror angle never supplants the film's dramatic core (and aren't the best werewolf movies inherently tragedies?), The performances of Perkins and Isabelle are standouts, but they are ably supported by Rogers and the less familiar Lemche, The film's uneven balance of black comedy seems to stem more from the relative inexperience of the director than a deliberate design, but its imperfections make for a refreshing change from the "audience tested to death" Dimension Films horror fare over here and the CNDC-funded arthouse projects coming over from north of the border, The werewolf effects are all practical without any cheap CGI, with a simultaneously beautiful and ferocious animatronic beast that may be one of the best werewolf designs since THE HOWLING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, It's sad that this generation likely have never heard of GINGER SNAPS, and probably find TWILIGHT's teenage angst incredibly profound, Although the film was obviously shot in Canada, I had not realized that it was actually set there until late in the film when a bilingual "Missing/Disparu" poster was taped to a locker late in the film.
While DVDs of the film's two sequels received special edition DVDs here via LionsGate, the 2001 Artisan DVD of GINGER SNAPS was both barebones and fullscreen with only a 2.0 surround downmix of the 5.1 original mix (Millennium’s 2005 reissue was reportedly similar in terms of technical specs), Overseas releases were anamorphic and had extras, but the interested stateside needed only to look up north to Canada for a loaded special edition of the film including much of the content carried over to Scream's combo (which also includes a couple exclusive featurettes), Scream Factory has not touted GINGER SNAPS as being one of their brand new transfers, but the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 Blu-ray obviously comes from a new-ish master, with the film looking more like a movie than one of the many nineties genre TV shows shot in Toronto (usually standing in for New York and other places in the states), The all-practical werewolf effects also hold up amazingly well with the enhanced resolution, Audio options include a recommended DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and a serviceable 2.0 downmix, Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.
Carried over from the Canadian special edition are two commentary tracks: the first with director John Fawcett, and the other with writer Karen Walton, Understandably proud of his achievement, Fawcett attempts an all-around commentary covering the plot, characterization, performances, and technical aspects, The result is kind of dry but he does convey his enthusiasm as well as his appreciation for the efforts of his collaborators, He discusses his inspirations for the project – including his love of Goth girls as a straight-laced teenager as well as monster movies – and his initial but thankfully abandoned conceptions for the film's style (which would have put it more in line with the other teen horror films of the time with plenty of pop culture references and a compilation song soundtrack), GINGER SNAPS was his second feature, the first being the thriller THE BOYS CLUB, Like many Canadian directors, much of his subsequent career has been in episodic television in shows ranging from XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS to DA VINCI'S INQUEST, THE BORDER, and ORPHAN BLACK; but he has directed one other horror feature since: THE DARK in which Maria Bello and Sean Bean lose their daughter from the underworld of Welsh mythology, Walton starts off the track talking about the reasons she had not to do the film: the portrayal of women in horror films, the unlikeliness of getting a genre product produced unless it's helmed by David Cronenberg, and violence for the sake of violence, Fawcett convinced her that the smartest thing to do would be to write a horror film that she would go and see, Understandably, she identifies with the Bridget character and her view of life during the high school years ("nothing matters unless it's happening to you" and the constant impulse to do something outrageous to "shake your life up") and suburbia, She goes into detail about combining the coming-of-age and horror genres, setting up stock figures from the two and then finding ways to put twists on them and invest them with depth (particularly in the case of drug dealer Sam, mean girl Trina, and seemingly oblivious mother Pam), Since Walton was also on set, she is able to also discuss how the shooting conditions altered the scenes as scripted, Walton also gives credit to Ken Chubb, who was the film's story editor (a credit more common and appreciated in the Canadian, British, and Australian film business) and helped her shape the film's metaphors and associations, Overall, the Walton track is the more engaging one because she is able to convey her ideas without jumping around or cutting herself off to catch up with onscreen action (although she does indeed follow the film in her discussion).
Several unfinished deleted scenes (25:07) are offered up with optional commentary by Fawcett and Walton on separate tracks, Fawcett's rationale for deleting them mainly has to do with pacing or lack of coverage, but he does miss the character bits, while Walton discusses how these bits were relevant to characterization, Most disappointing is the loss of shots and scenes from the climax, which had already been scaled down from the "Hollywood budget" version, and then further butchered at the expense of the participation of the Rogers' and Moss' characters (which would have been more satisfying), While the film works with the other scenes, the climax as it is in the finished film does indeed feel scaled down and worked around, leaving subplots hanging in the air, "The Making of GINGER SNAPS" featurette (4:51) is a brief montage of talking heads – Fawcett, Walton, Isabelle, Perkins, Rogers, Lemche, and co-producer Karen Lee Hall (WHO LOVES THE SUN) – and clips from the film that is interesting as a retrospective extra, but this type of EPK stuff wasn't really that interesting even when fresh, The Cast Auditions and Rehearsals (17:45) features Isabelle's and Perkins' individual auditions – the second for the latter since Fawcett recalls in the documentary featurette that Perkins had cut all of her hair off in between the first and second auditions and had to wear a wig for the shoot – as well as a handful of rehearsed scenes in which they are already fully in-character and Fawcett is already trying to block out camera angles, The "Creation of the Beast" featurette (4:59) is video shot at Paul Lewis' make-up effects warehouse with a look at the creature molds and discussion of where to place hair on the mostly hairless beast (Lewis' rationale being the need to cover up zippers and other places where the suit disarticulates), "Being John Fawcett" (1:59) is a short piece of video from the rehearsals in which the self-deprecating director jokes around with Perkins and Isabelle, It's irrelevant but it does demonstrate the warm rapport between the three that contributed to what ended up onscreen,
Scream Factory has only produced two new extras, but they are quite substantive and satisfying, "GINGER SNAPS: Blood, Teeth and Fur" (66:35) features new interviews with director Fawcett, writer Walton, actors Perkins and Moss, Steve Hoban (Vincenzo Natali's SPLICE), make-up effects artist Paul Jones (NIGHTBREED), composer Mike Shields (TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL), and editor Brett Sullivan (SAW IV), Fawcett discusses his schooling in film – from making shorts and a feature-length VHS movie in high school to film school which he attended with Vincenzo Natali (CUBE) among others – and the origins of the project, Although Fawcett had gravitated towards horror in his short films, the only werewolf films he liked were THE HOWLING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON; as a result, GINGER SNAPS was modeled more on films like CARRIE and HEAVENLY CREATURES, as well as Cronenberg's THE FLY and DEAD RINGERS (as well as his vampires short HALF NELSON), Walton was initially put off by the idea of writing a "teenage girl werewolf movie" but found the horror genre to be a rich venue for subversive ideas and would like to see more women get involved, Perkins and Moss discuss "the performance of adolescence" as well as working with prosthetics, Perkins talks about working with Rogers – who developed tactics independent of Fawcett to foster a certain onscreen relationship with her and Isabelle – while Moss recalls channeling a different kind of strength from the female protagonists as the leader of a predatory wolf-like pack of boys, Hoban recalls that concern over the script's combination of violence and teenage characters post-Columbine reached the media and blackballed the production with Toronto casting directors and agents, so they sought talent in Vancouver and New York, Jones recalls meeting Fawcett through friends, not having input into the lighting and shooting of the creature, and his concern about Fawcett's excessive coverage of the effect (which the director would end up cutting down extensively in the editing), Shields giddily recalls the film as his first genre scoring assignment, while editor Sullivan talks about emphasizing Bridget's perspective in the film even though Ginger has the showier scenes, The featurette closes out with Fawcett recalling the film's reception at the Toronto film festival, followed by poor distribution in Canada and the United States (they turned down an offer from Fox Searchlight which wanted cuts for a PG-13 rating), until he leant his print to a New York repertory theater which lead to a favorable New York Times review and the purchase of the TV rights by HBO whose constant showing of the film garnered more viewers than the theatrical play,
In "Growing Pain: Puberty in Horror Films" (27:09), Horror Hound writer Kristy Jett hosts a panel on the titular subject that includes Belgian filmmaker/actress Axelle Carolyn (SOULMATE), Fangoria writer Rebekah McKendry, and journalist Heidi Honeycutt (currently working on a book on horror films directed by women), Jett differentiates comedy films about puberty from horror films in that the latter tend to me more visceral while the former are comical, and the quartet also draw a connection in horror between puberty and the development of sexual feelings (whereas the two can often be separated by a couple years in reality), Refreshingly, the discussion does not begin with CARRIE (although it is included), but with McKendry's discussion of the Czech fantasy VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS, as well as MARTIN as the male perspective on puberty, as well as how there tend to be more vampire than werewolves in horror films about puberty (although Jett brings up THE COMPANY OF WOLVES and TEEN WOLF), Honeycutt brings up THE CRAFT and Carolyn JENNIFER'S BODY as films in which the symbolic changes are more empowering, and think less of films by men about killer sex organs (specifically BAD BIOLOGY, TEETH, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN in which a character kills every time she has sex), The disc also includes both the American trailer – from City Heat Productions (now part of Millennium Entertainment) – and the Canadian TVA International trailer (3:45), as well as two Canadian TV Spots (1:02), and a "Production Design Work" gallery (1:15). (Eric Cotenas)
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