Posted by Holly
Director: John Fawcett
For many years, the moon has been associated with femininity – this isn’t so strange, there are similar cycles shared between the two. As long as they’ve been personified, moon has always been the female counterpart to the masculine sun. Yet somehow, this concept didn’t fully transfer over to the story of the werewolf, which has, largely, been portrayed as a primarily male narrative. There could be quite a few reasons for this; werewolves are often portrayed as a human struggling with more “primal” instincts, the fight between the ego and the id. This is often seen as a masculine story, with they underlying theme that men are beasts at heart. The idea of women having these same primal desires is often dismissed, and so female werewolf stories have been historically less prominent.
Ginger Snaps not only frames the werewolf narrative around the life of a young woman, it takes the logical step of connecting her traumatic transformation to the traumatic experience of puberty.
Ginger Snaps is the story of two sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, who are strange, morbid, and somewhat loners, but have a remarkably close relationship to one another. Ginger is not enthused by the appearance of her first period, but soon has bigger problems to worry about when she is attacked by a large creature outside late at night. Unwilling to ask anyone but her sister for help, Ginger begins to go through a slow and terrifying transformation, as Brigitte desperately searches for a cure.
Ginger is the character that we see struggle with the transformation, and all the cruel side effects that come along with it. There is a running gag that all of the symptoms of becoming a werewolf are basically the same as puberty, only taken to the extreme – heightened appetite, sex drive, and hair growing in places of your body you’d never wanted to deal with. With the onset of menstruation, she rejects this progression, seeming appalled by the idea of this level of change. As her lycanthropy escalates, however, she eventually relents, and allows herself to give in to the changes, the desires, and the destructive behavior that follows. She doesn’t follow the somewhat typical way of making a werewolf sympathetic by depicting them having an internal struggle over behavior they can’t control – she can’t control it at first, but eventually comes to embrace the beast within – to the point of urging her sister to join her.
Ginger’s sister, Brigitte, is the true focus of this story, and she is the eyes through which the audience witnesses Ginger’s horrific transformation. She is depicted as often taking Ginger’s lead on many things, being the younger sister, so when Ginger begins to change so rapidly, it also throws Brigitte’s identity into turmoil. Brigitte is shown in a rather sympathetic light – she rejects what her sister is becoming, both because she is repelled by her behavior, but also because she feels left behind in many ways. But Brigitte is also given the chance to have flaws of her own; as an audience, we see her on the other end of a spectrum that each sister takes the extreme on. Ginger throws herself head first into these new changes in her, but Brigitte remains staunchly dedicated to a life of perpetual girlhood, where she never has to grow up or face these moral dilemmas. Neither one of them is necessarily right in their actions.
This movie isn’t straight up horror in its delivery, it has quite a lot of underlying tongue-in-cheek dark comedy. There are scenes clearly designed to make you laugh – when Ginger and Brigitte’s mother is attempting to put meat in the freezer and is so oblivious as to not see the body in it being one of them. A lot of this builds up so that the things that are unnvering are highlighted, rather than downplayed. It is genuinely unsettling seeing Brigitte lapping up Sam’s blood, or the scene where Ginger rapes Jason.
The real fear being depicted in this film is a more emotional one: the fear of growing up and growing apart from the ones you love. Ginger and Brigitte are clearly best friends at the beginning of the film, and intend to remain so forever. But life happens, and even while Ginger doesn’t mean to or even want to change, she does anyway, taking her to a place where Brigitte can’t follow. When Brigitte delivers the line “I’m not going to die in this room with you,” it’s speaking not only to her refusal to give in and become a werewolf, but also pointedly showing her breaking the terms of the “suicide pact” they had established earlier – a morbid symbol of their bond.
Even if you’re not a fan of the werewolf mythos in general, this is a great film to go to for a fresh spin on the story that will make you wonder why it hadn’t been done before this. It’s a cult classic in horror for a reason – it features some complex characters, relationships with substance, more than a little violence, and an emotional core that might hit you a little harder than you expect by the end.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Violence level: Pretty high! There’s quite a bit of carnage, especially as the second half of the film gears itself up and Ginger gets a bit hungrier. It’s not necessarily 100% realistic, but rather effective when it needs to be. Some images of suicide (although faked), as well as rape depicted in this.
Scariness level: This is scary on a more psychological level than it is on a visceral one. If you find werewolves inherently scary, you might get a jolt from it, but a lot of it preys on the concept of someone you love fundamentally changing for the worse.
Bechdel test: Passes with flying colors. This entire film is about the relationship between the sisters, and while men are involved in the story (to varying degrees), their presence never supersedes the girls’ relationship to each other.
Mako Mori test: This story is completely about Brigitte learning to deal with letting go of her relationship with her older sister. If that final shot doesn’t make you sad for them, I don’t know what will.