Ginger Snaps (film)

Ginger Snaps
Thegingersnapsfilmposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Fawcett
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by Mike Shields
Cinematography Thom Best
Edited by Brett Sullivan
Distributed by Motion International
Release date
  • August 1, 2000 (2000-08-01) (Munich Fantasy Filmfest)
  • May 11, 2001 (2001-05-11)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $4.5 million[2]:16
Box office $572,781[3]

Ginger Snaps is a 2000 Canadian horror film directed by John Fawcett and starring Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle. The film focuses on two teenage sisters who have a fascination with death. It is the first installment in the Ginger Snaps series, followed by Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning. Its reputation includes a large cult following and significant critical acclaim.[4]

Plot

In Bailey Downs, a rash of dog killings has been occurring. Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald are teenage sisters who harbor a fascination with death and, as children, formed a pact to move out of the suburb or die together by the age of 16. One night, while on the way to kidnap a dog owned by school bully Trina Sinclair, Ginger begins her first period. The scent of blood results in the girls being attacked by the creature responsible for the maulings. The creature bites and wounds Ginger, and Brigitte rescues her. As the girls flee, the creature is run over by a van belonging to Sam Miller, a local drug dealer.

Following the attack, Ginger undergoes transformations that concern Brigitte. Ginger's wounds heal quickly, and she soon starts to behave aggressively (particularly in a sexual way), grow hair from her scars, sprout a tail, and menstruate heavily. Ignoring Brigitte's warnings, Ginger has unprotected sex with a classmate named Jason McCardy, furiously beats Trina in public, and kills a neighbor's dog. Brigitte finds Sam for information on what he hit, and they both agree that Ginger was attacked by a werewolf and is transforming into one. At Sam's suggestion, Brigitte tries a silver ring piercing treatment on Ginger, but it proves to be ineffective. Sam then suggests infusing a monkshood extract, which is impossible to create as the plant is only found in the spring.

Trina shows up at the Fitzgerald house to accuse Ginger of kidnapping her dog. As she fights with Ginger, Trina is accidentally killed. The sisters narrowly avoid their parents while hiding the body in a freezer. Brigitte accidentally breaks off two of Trina's fingers while trying to remove the corpse, and the fingers are misplaced while burying Trina in the tool shed. Brigitte tells her sister she cannot go out anymore, but Ginger remains defiant.

On Halloween, Brigitte takes monkshood purchased by her mother for a craft project and asks Sam to make the cure. Sam successfully creates a monkshood extract. While trying to track down Ginger, Brigitte is attacked by Jason (who was infected by Ginger due to unprotected sex), and she defends herself by using the monkshood syringe on him. She witnesses his immediate change in behavior, which proves it is a cure. At school, Brigitte discovers Ginger’s murder of a faculty member and witnesses her killing another. Ginger then informs her intent to go after Sam next at the Greenhouse Bash, a Halloween party hosted by him, leaving Brigitte alone.

The girls' mother finds the fingers and Trina's corpse, and goes looking for her daughters. She finds a running Brigitte and picks her up. As she drives Brigitte to the Greenhouse Bash, she tells her that she will protect them at all costs. Brigitte arrives at the party to find Ginger hurting Sam for rejecting her advances. In despair, Brigitte wounds Ginger's and her own palm and clasps their hands together, infecting herself with Ginger's blood. She convinces Ginger of her loyalty and genuine willingness to help her sister, ending their long fight. As the sisters leave, Brigitte decides to abandon her mother. Brigitte and Sam take Ginger back to the Fitzgerald house in his van to prepare more of the cure for her.

Ginger fully transforms into a werewolf on the way home and escapes the van. Aware that she has transformed, Sam and Brigitte hide in the pantry as Sam makes the cure. When he goes to find Ginger, a transformed Ginger attacks and drags him away. After finding Sam, injured and bloody, she tries to save him by drinking his blood to calm Ginger, but is unable to go through with it. Ginger senses Brigitte's revulsion and insincerity, and she kills Sam in front of Brigitte.

As Ginger stalks Brigitte through the basement, Brigitte returns to the room where they grew up. Brigitte defends herself while holding the syringe in one hand and a knife in the other. Ginger lunges at Brigitte and into the knife, fatally wounding herself. Looking at pictures taken of both sisters throughout their adventures on the wall, Brigitte lays her head upon her dying sister's chest and sobs.

Cast

  • Emily Perkins as Brigitte Fitzgerald: The younger sister of Ginger Fitzgerald and the daughter of Pamela and Henry Fitzgerald. She tries to help Ginger deal with the effects of lycanthropy that were slowly turning her into a werewolf. Brigitte ultimately fails to cure her sister, resulting in Ginger fully transforming into a werewolf.
  • Katharine Isabelle as Ginger Fitzgerald: The older sister of Brigitte Fitzgerald and the daughter of Pamela and Henry Fitzgerald. She was attacked and bitten by the Beast of Bailey Downs who infected her with the curse of lycanthropy. Ginger begins going through erratic changes, and her ferocity became uncontrollable where she murders several people and neighborhood dogs. Ginger at first refused Brigitte's serum cure, wanting to embrace her new sense of power from her werewolf transformation, but eventually acquiesced, albeit too late. Ginger fully transforms into a werewolf, kills Sam, and attacks Brigitte at the family home. She accidentally dies after lunging into Brigitte's knife.
  • Kris Lemche as Sam: A drug dealer who used his work at the County Regreening Programme greenhouse as a double to sell marijuana. Sam accidentally hits the Beast of Bailey Downs with his van, saving the lives of Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald. He suggests Brigitte try a silver piercing cure and tells her about monkshood, a perennial plant that might hold the cure to lycanthropy. Sam prepares the monkshood as a serum and aspirates it into a syringe, which was first used by Brigitte on Jason, seemingly curing him. At the Fitzgerald house, he prepares another dose, but was slaughtered by Ginger (now a werewolf) while trying to administer it.
  • Mimi Rogers as Pamela Fitzgerald: Wife of Henry Fitzgerald and the mother of Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald. She is a happy-go-lucky motherly figure and cared for her daughters, but was often oblivious to her daughter's situations. After discovering Trina's murder, Pamela vows to protect her daughters at all costs.
  • Jesse Moss as Jason McCardy: A student at Bailey Downs High School. He developed an interest in Ginger Fitzgerald, particularly when she began adapting a more aggressive, promiscuous behavior due to her transforming into a werewolf. In her sexual escapade with Jason, Ginger passed the infection onto him. Jason develops violent tendencies and grotesque physical features associated with lycanthropy. Brigitte corners Jason and injects him with a monkshood extract, which appears to cure him.
  • Danielle Hampton as Trina Sinclair: A member of the high school field hockey team and a rival of Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald. On two occasions she takes her frustrations out on Brigitte only to find herself on the receiving end of sister Ginger's punches. She accuses the sisters of stealing her dog, but during the confrontation, she accidentally dies from an accident. Ginger and Brigitte bury Trina's body in the back yard, which was later discovered by Pamela Fitzgerald.
  • John Bourgeois as Henry Fitzgerald: The husband of Pamela Fitzgerald and the father of Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald. Henry was portrayed as a pushover who doted on his daughters and rarely took on the role of disciplinarian, of which his wife Pamela took the role. Henry is oblivious to his daughter's murder of Trina Fitzgerald.
  • Peter Keleghan as Mr. Wayne: A teacher and guidance counselor at Bailey Downs High School. He was murdered by Ginger who sensed he was threatening Brigitte after he decided to call her sister to his office.
  • Christopher Redman as Ben: A student at Bailey Downs High School and friend of Jason McCardy.
  • Jimmy MacInnis as Tim: A student at Bailey Downs High School and friend of Jason McCardy.
  • Lindsay Leese as Nurse Ferry: The school nurse at Bailey Downs High School. A cheerful and bubbly woman, she invited the Fitzgerald sisters into her office so she could educate them on puberty and the feminine cycle, but fails to address the Fitzgerald sisters' concern about Ginger's unusual menstruation.
  • Wendii Fulford as Ms. Sykes: The Bailey Downs High School gym and field hockey teacher. She breaks apart Ginger from Trina as they get into a heated argument.
  • Ann Baggley as Mother: An unnamed mother who, after finding her toddler playing with a severed paw, discovered that her dog was murdered by the Beast of Bailey Downs.
  • Pak-Kong Ho as Janitor: A custodial staff member of Bailey Downs High School who is seen helping Brigitte Fitzgerald on multiple occasions. He witnessed the murder scene of Mr. Wayne and was killed by Ginger.
  • Bryon Bully as Hockey Kid: Neighborhood kid who was the owner of Baxter, a dog who was killed by Ginger.
  • Steven Taylor as Puppy Kid: A young boy who was terrorized by Jason McCardy and saved by Brigitte Fitzgerald.
  • Nick Nolan as creature and Gingerwolf (Ginger as a werewolf): Nicknamed the Beast of Bailey Downs, the creature that was killing the town's dogs. Nolan also plays as Gingerwolf, who kills Sam and accidentally kills herself after lunging into Brigitte's knife.[5]

Production

Development

Writer/director John Fawcett has said, "I knew that I wanted to make a metamorphosis movie and a horror film. I also knew that I wanted to work with girls."[6] In January 1995, he talked to screenwriter Karen Walton, who was initially reluctant to write the script due to the horror genre's reputation for weak characters, poor storytelling, and a negative portrayal of women. However, Fawcett convinced Walton this film would re-interpret the genre.[6]

The two encountered trouble financing the film. They approached producer Steve Hoban, with whom they had worked before, and he agreed to produce the film. Hoban employed Ken Chubb to edit and polish the story, and after two years they were ready to seek financiers.[6]

Motion International committed to co-financing and Canadian distribution, and Trimark Pictures agreed to be the co-financier, U.S distributor and international sales agent.[6] The film seemed ready to go into production by fall of 1998, however negotiations with Trimark caused the producers to miss the budgeting deadline for Telefilm Canada, the Canadian federal film funding agency. Rather than go ahead with only 60% of the funding, Hoban decided to wait a year for Telefilm's funding. During this interval Trimark dropped the film. Lionsgate Films, who Trimark would end up merging with in 2000, took Trimark's place, and Unapix Entertainment agreed to distribute the DVD.[6] The film's budget was $4.5 million.[2]:16

Casting

Casting the two leads met with substantial difficulty. While a casting director was easily found for Los Angeles, Canadian casting directors proved to be appalled by the horror, gore, and language. When one finally agreed to pick up the film, the Columbine shooting and another school shooting in Alberta suddenly thrust the public spotlight on violent teens. The Toronto Star's announcement that Telefilm was funding a "teen slasher movie" met with a flurry of debate and outrage in the media, which generated a significant amount of adverse publicity in proportion to the size of the project.[6][7]

Casting took place in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Perkins and Isabelle auditioned on the same day at their agency in Vancouver, reading to one another off-camera. When their taped auditions arrived, screenwriter Karen Walton said that they were exactly as she had pictured the characters.[6]

Coincidentally, both actresses were born in the same hospital, attended the same pre-school, elementary and private schools, and are at the same agency. Perkins was twenty-two at the time and Isabelle four years younger, but Perkins was cast as the younger sister.

Attention then turned to the next most important characters: the drug dealer and the mother roles. Mimi Rogers readily agreed to play the mother, Pamela, saying that she liked the black humour and comic relief in the role.[6] Robin Cook, the Canadian casting director, put forward one of her favourites, Kris Lemche, for the role of drug dealer Sam. After seeing Kris's audition, Fawcett hired him.[6]

Katharine Isabelle having a facial prosthetic applied.

Shooting

Principal photography took place between October 25 and December 6, 1999, lasting a little over six weeks. Three of Toronto's suburbs, Etobicoke, Brampton (Kris Lemche's hometown), and Scarborough served as the suburb of Bailey Downs.[6] Shooting outside during Toronto's winter for sixteen hours a day, six days a week meant that sicknesses would make their rounds through the cast and crew every few weeks.[6][8]

On the first day of shooting in the suburbs, all the still photographs for the title sequence were created. The bloody, staged deaths drew a crowd and Fawcett worried about upsetting the neighbours.[6] The girls were covered in fake blood for the shots and, at the time, a homeowner's basement served as their changing room. Each time they needed to change, someone had to distract the homeowner's four-year-old child.[8]

Long shooting days pushed the earliest possible start later each day until the scenes written for day were being shot after late into the night. The Director of Photography solved the problem by using diffusion gel and four eighteen kilowatt lamps which generated enough light to be seen a mile high in the sky.[6]

The special effects proved to be a major hardship as Fawcett eschewed CGI effects, and preferred to use more traditional means of prosthetics and make-up. Consequently, Isabelle had to spend up to seven hours in the makeup chair to create Ginger's metamorphosis and a further two hours to remove them.[8] Often covered in sticky fake blood that required Borax and household detergent to remove, she further endured wearing contacts that hindered her vision and teeth that meant she couldn't speak without a lisp. The most aggravating thing was the full facial prosthetic which gave her a permanently runny nose that she had to stop with Q-tips.[6]

Post-production

Beginning in December 1999, Brett Sullivan worked with Fawcett for eight weeks to create the final cut of the film.[6] Despite the short time for editing the film was nominated for a Genie in editing.[9] Despite a similarly tight schedule in the sound department, the film would also be nominated for a Genie in sound editing.[9]

Release

Ginger Snaps premiered at the Munich Fantasy Filmfest in August 2000. The next month, it played at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival, where it briefly received media attention following the positive word-of-mouth it had built up from Munich. Although called one of the stand-outs of the Toronto festival, attention died off and the film followed an unfocused release strategy, playing at various film festivals and building up more word-of-mouth.[2]:86–87 Ginger Snaps was released to Canadian cinemas in May 2001. It grossed C$425,753 domestically, making it the fifth highest-grossing Canadian film between December 2000 and November 2001.[10] Owing to a cult following, it has achieved significant video and DVD sales. These earnings, combined with moderate theatrical success abroad, led to the production of two further films.

Reception

The film has an 89% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 57 reviews; the average rating is 7.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "The strong female cast and biting satire of teenage life makes Ginger Snaps far more memorable than your average werewolf movie – or teen flick."[11] Critics' praise was centered on the quality of acting by the two leads, the horrific metamorphosis reminiscent of Cronenberg,[12][13] the use of lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty, and the dark humour.[14][15][16][17] Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club wrote that the film was "seemingly left for dead" after playing at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival but is now considered a cult film.[18] It is ranked 78 on Time Out London's list of 100 best horror films, Tom Huddleston calling it "the best teenage werewolf movie, period".[19]

Critics who panned the film thought the puberty metaphor was too obvious, the characters too over-the-top (especially the mother), and the dark humour and horror elements unbalanced.[20][21]

Because the film links lycanthropy to menstruation and features two sisters, Ginger Snaps lends itself to a feminist critique. Feminist scholar Bianca Nielsen wrote, "By simultaneously depicting female bonds as important and fraught with difficulties, Ginger Snaps portrays the double-binds teenage girls face." and "Ginger is an embodiment of these impossible binaries: she is at once sexually attractive and monstrous, 'natural' and 'supernatural,' human and animal, 'feminine' and transgressive, a sister and a rival."[22]

Accolades

Award Ceremony[a] Category Recipient(s) / nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Toronto International Film Festival September 17, 2000 Best Canadian Film - Special Jury Citation Ginger Snaps Won [23]
Málaga International Week of Fantastic Cinema February 28, 2001 Best Feature Film Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, director) Won [24][23]
Best Special Effects Ginger Snaps Won
Best Actress Emily Perkins Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards December 20, 2001 Best Canadian Film Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, director) Nominated [25][26]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle January 31, 2002 Best Canadian Film Ginger Snaps Nominated [27][28]
Best Actress in a Canadian Film Katharine Isabelle Nominated
Genie Awards February 7, 2002 Achievement in Cinematography Thom Best Nominated [9][29]
Achievement in Editing Brett C. Sullivan Nominated
Achievement in Sound Editing David McCallum, Donna Powell, Fred Brennan,
Garrett Kerr, Jane Tattersall, Mishann Lau, Rob Warchol
Nominated
Canadian Comedy Awards April 4, 2002 Best Writing - Film (Pretty Funny Writing) Karen Walton Won [30][31]
International Horror Guild Award April 13, 2002 Best Film Ginger Snaps Won [32]
Saturn Award June 10, 2002 Best DVD Release (inaugural) Ginger Snaps Won [33][23]
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards 2002 Best Limited-Release Film/Direct-to-Video Film Ginger Snaps Won [34]
Best Screenplay Karen Walton Won
Best Actress Emily Perkins Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Mimi Rogers Nominated

Soundtrack

The soundtrack was released on Roadrunner Records.

Sequel and prequel

Based on successful DVD sales, both a sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, and a prequel, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, were filmed back-to-back in 2003.[2]:116 Even though Ginger Snaps 2 had a wider release than the original, it underperformed at the box office. Consequently, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning went direct-to-video.[35]

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