Werewolves are a bit long in the tooth in horror circles. Michael Landon was a teenage lycanthrope. So was Michael J. Fox. There was a little picture called American Werewolf in London that a few zillion folks may have seen. Truth is, there hasn't been that much to howl about since the Scream mushroom cloud irradiated all creativity from the genre. Bleak times indeed for gorehounds. School shootings didn't help. Scissor-happy studios didn't either. But truly creative people don't pay much mind to such things. They hire creature FX gurus, mix big ol' vats of stage blood, and bravely go where society and the all-mighty dollar warns them against. Folks like John Fawcett and Karen Walton just do it anyway. They made a picture that's as morosely witty as it is grotesque. They sharpened the teeth of the time-worn werewolf flick and created what will easily become a genre classic. They made Ginger Snaps (2000, 108 minutes). Inexplicably, it only garnered a spotty release on U.S. screens and a skeletal domestic DVD, so we must gleefully thank Canada for this richly-deserved special edition.
The movie: Sisters Brigitte and Ginger made a death pact when they were just eight years old, wear raven skulls around their necks and stage elaborate snuff scenes for their own amusement. They're goth girls without the irony, but with true contempt for humanity, and both are on the edge of womanhood as neither has been visited by Eve's curse (and we all remember what happened to Carrie White). These black-garbed, sullen freaks stand in stark contrast to the bright uniformity of their idealized suburbia, not to mention their Ward 'n' June folks. The hell of high school is especially fiery for these girls who seem to invite the torment of others. While in the shadows of their world, something is violently butchering neighborhood dogs and strewing their kibbles and bits all over, including a bloody paw in a kid's sandbox. The younger of the two is Brigitte (Emily Perkins) who looks like Howard Stern and finds it impossible to look anyone in the eye. While her older sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is finding it harder to hide her developing curves from the lustful gaze of high school boys. Then it happens: Ginger gets her period and the Weird Wagon roars into town. They're out late at night to play a practical joke on Ms. Popular when a furry beast snatches Ginger and drags her screaming into the woods. Brigitte stands there in disbelief before timidly running toward her sisters cries and finds her being mauled by a wolf-like creature. They frantically scratch and claw themselves away to safety where Ginger's wounds miraculously begin to heal. Nothing between the two girls is ever the same afterward. Ginger becomes a man-eater in the most direct definition of the word. She sprouts hair all over her beautiful bod and, gulp, a tail. Brigitte is caught between trying to save her sister and being a victim of her ravenous new blood lust. CineSchlockers will love seeing the jugalicious Mimi Rogers as the gals' hilariously wacky mom. Ms. Rogers has been far less maternal in many other pictures including the immortal Full Body Massage.
Notables: No breasts. Five corpses. Four dead dogs. Aunt flo fu. Gratuitous stoners. Fur shaving. Milk and cookies. Fingers tumble. Gratuitous urination (with blood). Snuff photography. Multiple puking. Flashing. Hypodermic to the neck. Blood slurping. Backseat diddling. Human popsicle.
Quotables: Ginger snaps, "The words JUST and CRAMPS -- they don't go together!" Brigitte doesn't buy her sister's denial, "So, you got bit by a great big hormone?!" Mom has a messiah complex, "Don't you 'Jesus' me!" and "JESUS CHRIST ON A BICYCLE!!!" Admitting you have a problem is the first step, "I'm up to some whack s@#% right now. I'm way out on the corner of f@#%ed up and evil."
Time codes: Clip from Something Weird Video's "The Cats" (2:30). Is that "The Man Show" Boy? (12:50). Ginger is ravaged in the woods (17:30). School nurse teaches Menstruation 101 (27:50). The girls self-medicate through body piercings (42:45). Teen sex vixen on the prowl (1:20:30). Ginger's metamorphosis is complete (1:26:35).
Audio/Video: Clean presentation in its original widescreen (1.85:1) format. The filmmakers intentionally manipulated the contrast and coloration of some scenes, so this should not be confused for flaws in the transfer. Active Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks along side standard 2.0 tracks in both English and French. All beautifully showcase the haunting score by Mike Shields, which is yet another strength of this picture.
Extras: The first of two commentary tracks features director John Fawcett who does an excellent job of talking about what's both on the screen and the interesting roads taken to get it there. It's informative and occasionally funny like when he points out that Xena Warrior Princess is the voice heard over the high school P.A., or during the final credits when he confesses how tickled he is to actually get to do a commentary. The second track is by writer Karen Walton who despite carrying a lot of baggage about the horror genre provides a fantastic commentary that really delves into what makes the film unique. She says she put a lot of herself into the character of Brigitte and also fought to give both girls a sense of strength she feels is lacking in other horror movies that are "more about screaming and how tight the tops are." Surely making this film showed Walton that there's much more to the genre, and if not, she might find some solace by reading Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film in which author Carol J. Clover draws some surprising conclusions about those so-called poor, victimized females. Speaking of chicks, where's Katy and Emily!? As great as these two tracks are, it's disappointing not to hear from the flick's talented starlets.
Also included are 15 deleted scenes with optional commentary. In all, there's about 25-minutes of footage that expands the story in various, largely forgettable ways. No extra nudity or gore. One howler of a scene was thankfully cut that had the girls' mom professing her guilt in order to save them. There's about 20 minutes of audition and rehearsal footage featuring a wig-less Ms. Perkins. Gruesome slideshow of Brigitte and Ginger's school project. The scant five-minute look at the "Creation of the Beast" leaves much to be desired (poor Paul Jones). Brief on-set featurette. Theatrical trailer and TV spots. Gallery of production design artwork. Cast and crew bios. A bit of exploration reveals some amusing Easter eggs. Animated menus with audio. Printed insert features samples of Vincenzo Natali's storyboards.
Final thought: Unflinching horror and heart. It's reassuring to see a film with this level of gore, humor and style in an otherwise vapid era of pop-slashers. DVD Talk Collectors Series.
* TVA's collectors edition is exclusive to Canada, which means you'll have to purchase it from one of the many e-tailers from the Great White North like Chapters.ca, EntertainMe.ca or ABSound.ca. When you charge by credit card the currency conversion is automatic and will be roughly $10 less than the total in Canadian dollars.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.